The TGA’s Response to Dereck Joubert’s article in the Daily Maverick

By Elma Britz. Director – The True Green Alliance.

Nobody can dispute Mr Dereck Joubert’s abilities as a wildlife cinematographer or his long term commitment to Botswana’s wildlife, nor indeed his love of wildlife.

THAT is NOT what this comment is all about.

This comment is about Mr Joubert’s very apparent lack of understanding about Botswana’s current wildlife management affairs and (with respect) his obvious total and general lack of any understanding about the principles and practices of wildlife management. Wildlife management (a.k.a “conservation”) is a science.

It deals with FACTS – THE TRUTH – NOT EMOTION. And because it deals with complex ecological issues – which most people do not fully understand – wildlife management considerations cannot be determined by way of a public referendum – which Mr Joubert seems to think is an important issue in this debate.

The personal preference opinions of people who don’t understand the complex issues involved, are not matters that can be considered in this debate.When I have an electrical problem in my house I do not call in a plumber to fix it.

So when I want to know the FACTS about Botswana’s wildlife I will call upon someone who understands the ecological wildlife issues involved. And that person is certainly NOT Mr Joubert.

Wildlife management, although often complex in nature, is not difficult to understand is you use the simple expedient of common sense.

Devastation on the eastern side of the Okavango

And THAT is something that Mr Joubert seldom does. I would like to think that his commitment to Botswana’s wildlife comes from nowhere else but from his heart but THAT approach cannot can resolve any of Botswana’s current wildlife problems.

BASIC wildlife management is the science of maintaining an ecological balance between a game reserve’s soil, its plants and its animals. Why? Because the soil is a finite resource that can produce only an equally finite quantity of vegetation (food and habitat) every year, and THIS (food and habitat) is what the animals in a game reserve require to survive.

When animals (of any species) become too many, they eat (and otherwise ‘use’) more vegetation than the soil (and the rain) can produce each year.

In order survive, therefore, the animals are then forced to eat the vegetable ‘capital’ that exists in any and every game reserve. This ‘capital’ comprises the parent woody plant material that produces the edible vegetation. And when this happens every year, that ‘capital’ plant material gets less and less until it disappears altogether.

Baobabs in the upper delta already destroyed

This causes the ecosystem to collapse and then ‘everything dies’. Mr Joubert talks about the ‘pristine’ wildlife conditions that exist in Botswana and he explains, very eloquently, that people all over the world want Botswana to preserve these so-called ‘pristine’ conditions for ever – which he (and they) believe will happen if the government of Botswana would just stop the hunting of elephants and leave nature alone to do its ‘thing’ (because he and they believe that `’nature knows best’).

His expressions of such sentiments illustrate just how far ‘off-course’ his ideas really are. The actual fact is that there are no ‘pristine’ wildlife habitats left in Botswana – except, perhaps, within the central Okavango swamp itself.

The elephants have destroyed them all. And surely Mr Joubert KNOWS that?

The reality of Botswana’s wildlife affairs is that its game reserve ecosystems – after 60 years of elephant abuse – are probably going through the last stages of total destruction.

Destruction in Botswana done by too many elephants. Image: Theodore George Pistorius

There are abundant records to prove that – over the last 60 years – there has been massive destruction of Botswana’s once diverse and healthy habitats – many types of which have completely disappeared (So, over the years there has already been massive biological diversity loss in Botswana’s prime national park systems – and protecting a national park’s biological diversity is its FIRST wildlife management priority.)

And all of this has been caused by too many elephants, over far too many decades, eating the vegetation ‘capital’ that once existed in these sanctuaries.

What is required as a priority consideration in Botswana today, therefore, is the establishment of a long-standing programme of habitat restoration – which simply HAS to begin with MASSIVE elephant population reductions (hunting AND culling).

Botswana, today, is probably carrying 20 TIMES too many elephants.

There is no other practical solution to this problem, therefore, and the sooner this begins to happen the better for everybody concerned; and the better for Botswana’s people, its elephants and its other wildlife, too.

Elephant population reduction is vital – whether Mr Joubert likes that idea or not! And consideration of elephant population reduction must takes priority over all the political issues that Mr Joubert has raised.

The fact of the matter is that IF Botswana’s wild ecosystems die, so will everything else.

Elma Britz. Director – The True Green Alliance.

One Comment

  1. Dr George Hughes

    Well said!

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