TGA Opinion on Botswana’s Wildlife Management Programme

I have been asked by many people to give my opinion on Botswana’s wildlife management programme; its elephant management programme in particular; and the current demand by some MPs to have hunting reinstated.

The article – Botswana MPs want wildlife hunting ban lifted ahead of talks – refers.

The TGA is not in a popularity contest with anybody – certainly not with respect to Botswana’s current wildlife management predicament.  We just tell the truth as we see it. So read this article and then read my comments which appear after it.

Ron Thomson. CEO. TGA


MY comments:

  1. Hunting – when it is conducted properly and with discretion – is a valid and essential tool of wildlife management (a.k.a. “conservation”) in a country like Botswana. Hunting is neither incompatible to Botswana’s commitment to what it calls “wildlife conservation” nor to tourism. At the time the hunting ban was applied in 2014, the specific reason provided was that a moratorium on hunting would give the government time to determine why “other game species” populations had declined by between 60 and 90 percent. So the reasons seem to change in tune with the weather. The truth of the matter is, the Botswana government outlawed hunting for no other reason than that its President, Ian Khama, was persuaded to do so by his many animal rightists friends – and personal tourism business partners – who are opposed to hunting on implacable doctrinaire grounds.

NOTE: It is the animal rightists purpose to ABOLISH all animal “uses” by man – including hunting.

  1. The link between the massive increase in Botswana’s elephant numbers over the last several decades; the destruction of the habitats in the country’s game reserves; and the alarming loss of “other game animal species” in these sanctuaries, is very clear and obvious. Nobody in the country is prepared to challenge President Khama with this observation, however, because it is completely contrary to his beliefs; and to the demands of his animal rightist friends.
  1. The article talks of 200 000 elephants in Botswana (which is near enough to be considered correct); and that there were 6 100 cases of human-wildlife conflict situations in the country last year (2016) – most of which involved elephants. This is not surprising in a country that is overflowing with elephants!
  1. Three MPs have called for a resumption of hunting – specifically because of the heavy damage to crops by elephants. If hunting were to be resumed, however, only a relatively few elephant bulls would be removed each year. This would not solve the crop raiding problem (there are simply too many elephants for hunting to cause even a blip in the crop-raiding incidents); and it would not solve Botswana’s equally important loss-of-other-species problem, either. The only action that can solve both these problems is massive elephant population reduction – which is unlikely to be countenanced. And THAT being the true state of affairs, the only thing that Botswana can look forward to is the loss of more and more game species (entire species – not just numbers) inside its wildlife sanctuaries; which will ultimately become deserts. And THAT general state of affairs will most certainly, and very badly, affect Botswana’s tourism industry.
  1. International conferences are not going to solve these very real problems – which are, in fact, very easy to resolve in practice. All it needs is the application of a little common sense management. Politically, however, the barriers to implementation will be huge.

Rumour has it in Botswana that, over the years of President Ian Khama’s conversion to animal rightism, he has voluntarily become the Director of an International Animal Rights group that is, apparently, backed by America’s Wallmark business empire. Sadly, despite the fact that a resumption of wildlife hunting in Botswana makes good sense all round – for the country’s tourism industry and for the rural people – it is probable that no change will take place now until there is a major regime change in the country.

Ron Thomson

I am NOT a ‘trophy hunter’ - and never have been. I am not involved in the trophy hunting safari business. I am also not a game rancher. But I have ‘administratively controlled’ professional hunters and safari outfitters in my capacity as a government game warden. I am an 80 year old ex-game warden with 60 years of continuous experience in hands-on wildlife management, and national park management, in Africa (1959 to 2019). In breakdown, I have 24 years experience in the management of national parks in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe - and in the management of the wild animal populations that lived inside those national parks; one year as the Chief Nature Conservation of the Ciskei in South Africa; three years as Director of the Bophuthatswana National Parks Board in South Africa; and I worked for three years as a professional hunter in the South African Great Karoo (taking foreign hunters on quests for plains game trophies). I discovered, however, that professional hunting was not my forte. I worked as an investigative wildlife journalist for 30 years in South Africa. I have written fifteen books and hundreds of magazine articles on the subject of wildlife management and big game hunting in Africa. Five of my books are university-level text books on wildlife management. I am a university-trained ecologist; was a member of the Institute of Biology (London) for 20 years; and was a registered chartered biologist for the European Union for 20 years. I have VAST experience in the “management hunting” of elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and hippos (as part of my official national park work in the control of problem animals); and I pioneered the capture of black rhino in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley (1964 - 1970). My university thesis was entitled: “The Factors Affecting the Survival and Distribution of Black Rhinos in Rhodesia”. Look at my personal website if you want any further details about my experience:

Ron Thomson has 217 posts and counting. See all posts by Ron Thomson

4 thoughts on “TGA Opinion on Botswana’s Wildlife Management Programme

  • we went and visit botswana for the first time in 1999; driving from moremi south gate camp to savuti and chobe we stop counting ellies when we got to 400 ; never seen so many ellies in our lives ; but in chobe we noticed areas that looked like someone had scrapped all vegetation and fallen trees or no trees ; similar last year when we visited satara in the KNP , some areas are scalped of vegetation and trees taken or smaller trees eaten down to a stomp ;

    • Hello Joao,

      Nice to meet you on our website. All the elephant populations of southern Africa’s big game reserves and national parks are EXCESSIVE in number. Too many for the game reserve habitats to carry sustainably. The elephants are destroying their own habitats and the habitats of all other species. In Botswana all other species have been in free fall decline for a long time now. The game reserve biological diversities are crashing. Plants and animal are becoming extinct. And very soon all these game reserves will be deserts. I fervently hope that one day soon all these elephant populations will crash – because that is going to be the only way these natural ecosystems have any chance of recovery. And it is the animal rights brigade that has brought them to this stage. Ian Khama will not change his stance – and start culling his elephants – because he is a director of an animal rights NGO in the United States – funded by Hall Mart. And Botswana’s elephants now number 200 000 +.

      It will happen in Kruger National Park, too – unless major elephant culls are instituted there. The problem, however, is now so advanced – and the elephant population in Kruger is now so large – and the remedial management action required will be so drastic – a reduction in the population (in the first instance only) by 50 percent, that government and SANParks will almost certainly baulk at even making such a suggestion. And after that even more will have to come off. I am reasonably sure now that the elephant carrying capacity of Kruger National Park (in 1955 – when the habitats had not yet been adversely affected) was about 3500. So I guess that, if the habitats are to have any chance of recovery, Kruger’s elephants will have to be reduced to 2500 – and kept at that level for the next 50 years.

      We can lay the blame firmly at the feet of the animal rights brigade.

      Kind regards

  • Mr. Thompson, your comments appear to be chillingly accurate, and it will be an enormous task to restore the balance required, due to man’s encroachment of the environment, and the unwillingness of the powers that be, to see this problem in a favourable light. What you say makes sense, and I only hope that others see it this way too. I would like to wish you, and those like you, every success in your endeavours, in restoring this balance, in order that everyone has an opportunity to see the real Africa, as it should be!
    Best Regards,
    Jim Boyd.

  • What has happened in Botswana is the sole responsibility of seven people.
    Ian is only one of them.


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