Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) recently hosted its 19th African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Kasane, Botswana in November 2021. Following the successful event, the SCIF team, led by the Ngamiland Council of NGOs along with a delegation from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks and Botswana Wildlife Producers Association, toured several community areas of northern Botswana. SCIF’s leopard researchers with the Texas A&M – Kingsville’s Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute were on site to appreciate the landscape for future camera trapping work. The group was also joined by Zig Mackintosh from the Osprey Filming Company to document the experience and elevate the community voice.
Leaving the tourist bubble of Kasane’s lodges and AWCF’s professional conference can be eye-opening, and it is disheartening at times to see the lack of basic health services and serious human-wildlife conflict in these rural areas. But with Botswana reopening tourist hunting again in 2019, there’s a new source of hope.
“Northern Botswana is such a fascinating place,” says SCIF Conservation Manager Joe Goergen. “There is poverty juxtaposed by the world’s most iconic yet dangerous species with thousand-year baobab trees in an endlessly diverse transboundary conservation landscape, where a controversial activity like trophy hunting is contributing to sustainable development and providing real benefits to the local people.”
Critics of hunting and skeptics of Botswana’s community-based sustainable use wildlife reform clearly haven’t seen the impact on the ground. Income from hunting is funding the basics of life and improving livelihoods from food security and water access to transportation to school and human-wildlife conflict mitigation. Botswana needs hunting.
An interesting dynamic is the historical interaction with photographic tourism. Hunting was the pioneer industry opening up many areas, then the 2014 ban led to a devastating economic shock, particularly for villages like Mababe with limited alternative options. Only a few, more accessible communities like Sankuyo were able to cope with the loss of critical income from tourist hunting. Some of these trusts are now using money from hunting and the new 2020 extended season to build tourist accommodations for domestic and middle markets, further diversifying community funds and complementing conservation in Botswana.
Learn more about community benefits from hunting and SCIF’s ongoing leopard population survey in Botswana yourself by watching the film below.