1. The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) is aware of a social media post that purports that ‘in 18 months about 120 rhinos with and without horns have been slaughtered’ and that ‘after Corona there will be none left for tourists to come and watch’.
2. The DWNP is disappointed at the tone of the post, which is regrettable coming from a former very high ranking Government official who should otherwise be aware of the security sensitivities of the subject matter, and its potential negative implication on tourism, which is the second highest foreign revenue earner for the country. The motive for the post is unclear, but borders on economic sabotage.
3. In terms of the cited numbers, DWNP has a long standing policy of not discussing operational and security-sensitive anti-poaching information in the media, as that only serves to increase the safety risks that our on-the-ground operatives face. The DWNP rangers and their collaborating partners from other security organs already work tirelessly to protect the country’s natural resources, mostly in very tough and inhabitable terrains. DWNP sees no benefit whatsoever in exposing them to further danger by discussing the number and locations of the cases that the rangers are dealing with.
4. Notwithstanding, DWNP wishes to assure members of the public that the COVID 19 Lockdown and curfew have in fact had a very direct and significant positive impact on the anti-poaching operations of DWNP and its collaborators. Reports of all transgressions against wildlife, including subsistence and commercial poaching, killing of ‘problem animals’ by farmers, illegal wildlife trade, wildlife poisoning events, vehicle accidents with wildlife, arrests for unlawful possession of government trophy (e.g. game animal skins, game meat etc.), and all other issues of interest to the law enforcement agencies, have decreased by over 70% when one compares the 12-months pre-COVID 19 (March 2019 to February 2020) with the 12-month COVID 19 period (March 2020 to February 2021). Consequently, DWNP advises that the claims in the above-cited post are devoid of any truth, and are misleading, malicious, and grossly irresponsible.
5. Members of the public are requested to verify any anti-poaching data with DWNP before making irresponsible and misleading statements that may have a negative implication on Botswana. Batswana are urged to jealousy guard our wildlife and heritage resources against ill-intentioned posts, such as the one cited above.
Dr Kabelo Senyatso