Botswana Community Conservation Reform Celebrated by Safari Club International

Special guest Hon. Ambassador to the United States David Newman received SCI’s International Legislator of the Year Award in the name of His Excellency President Mokgweetsi Masisi from SCI President Steve Skold 

Community-based conservation in Botswana was celebrated at the SCI Convention in Reno with His Excellency President Mokgweetsi Masisi being awarded SCI’s International Legislator of the Year Award in recognition of his reopening of tourist hunting. Special guest Hon. Ambassador to the United States David Newman was present to receive the prestigious award.

“It’s important to address animal rights, yes, but one thing that’s been missing: human rights,” stated Ambassador Newman. “To achieve sustainable utilization of our natural resources is a win-win. We’re confident we can do it particularly with the partners we have here through SCI.”

Botswana’s sustainable use wildlife reform was instituted in 2019 only after an extensive consultation process with rural Batswana, giving a voice to the people severely impacted by human-elephant conflict who suffered over the 5-year hunting ban. President Masisi’s decision has of course come under fierce attack by the general public for its focus on elephant management.

Safari Club’s CEO and staff of the Governmental Affairs and Conservation teams hand-delivered the award this past week to the Botswana Embassy in Washington, DC. A meeting with Ambassador Newman was had to discuss future cooperation, including the 18th African Wildlife Consultative Forum that will be hosted by Botswana from 9-13 November 2020 in Kasane. This year’s AWCF will highlight their successful implementation of a new community benefit program and further solidify SCIF’s working relationship with Botswana.

Safari Club delegation at the Botswana Embassy. Left to right: Joe Goergen, SCIF Conservation Manager, Ben Cassidy, SCI Director of Government Affairs, Dr. Chris Comer, SCIF Director of Conservation, Hon. Ambassador David Newman, Laird Hamberlin, SCI/F CEO

A strong delegation from the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, the newly formed Conservation Coalition of Botswana and University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute also attended the 2020 Convention. While the show was underway in Reno, back home in Botswana the government held a productive auction of a special elephant quota hunts that will take place in areas of high elephant conflict with revenue directly benefiting those local communities.

Botswana delegation at the SCI Convention.  Left to right: Phemelo Gadimang, Carnivore Biologist, Dr. Cyril Taolo, Director of Wildlife, Tebogo Boalotswe, the Conservation Coalition of Botswana, Steve Skold, SCI President

Support from the United States will be critical to the success of Botswana’s reform policies. The delegation was able to meet with representatives from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service to continue working together to ensure the smooth importation of hunting trophies from the upcoming first season.

“Thanks to President Masisi’s bold decision, Botswana has made clear its commitment to the restoration of economic value to rural communities embracing a well-regulated sustainable wildlife management plan,” said SCI President Steve Skold, “a fulfillment of one of SCI’s core values.”

“Please come now to Botswana, come as hunters, come as tourists, we welcome you back,” concluded Ambassador Newman. “I look forward to forming even stronger ties between SCI and Botswana.”

Watch the full award ceremony here.