Communities roped inro wildlife management

Being a largely semi-arid area the Kgalagadi and Gantsi area is known for its dry lands and strong presence of wildlife which raises contention over issues of poaching and human-wildlife conflict.

The main source of human-wildlife conflict in the area is encroachment of wild animals in settlements, and poaching along the Namibia and South Africa border.

The Gantsi area specifically, is a largely agriculture-based community with cattle rearing and goat farming being predominant in the area. It is also close to the Namibia and South Africa borders, which has made it porous and vulnerable to wildlife poaching, the Gantsi Department of Wildlife and National Parks indicates.

Furthermore, wildlife is under additional threat from poaching, wildlife poisoning and illegal wildlife trade.

The recurring human and wildlife conflict challenges in the area include the loss of livestock to mammalian carnivores, especially lions, wild dogs and hyena being the most dominant human-wildlife conflict issue.

A wildlife officer at the Gantsi Department of Wildlife office said that they try to engage community members and that several community projects have been put in place to ensure that community members play a role in conservation efforts and also contribute to protecting wildlife in the Kgalagadi.

"A number of interventions that were done by specifically DWNP, include: trophy hunting quotas issued to Community Based Organisations, who then use the income earned for socio-economic boost."

National director at Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) said there are campsites that have been awarded to some of them, for example, BORAVAST Trust has been awarded a campsite at Two Rivers in the Kalahari Transfrontier Park which should help raise income for them.

He added that all these are carried out through support with development of Land Use and Management Plans, which help guide on optimal use of land for socio-economic development.

Dr. Kabelo Senyatso said this is in addition to other projects supported by departments within Ministry of Environment and Tourism, including salt project at Zutshwa, Khawa Dune Challenge, a prosopis removal project by BORAVAST Trust, the Khuis Nature Park and the Tsabong Camel Park.

Natural resources management in the Kalahari landscape is characterised by competition and conflict between conservation goals, economic development and livelihoods. Home to large herds of angulates and iconic predators the landscape was dominated by low-density wildlife with hunter-gatherer livelihoods until borehole farming enabled cattle ranching a few decades ago.

The consequent rangeland degradation and ecosystem fragmentation threatens wildlife and economic development. The Wildlife Management Areas meant to support wildlife-based economic activities and secure migratory corridors linking the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve continue to be lost to livestock encroachment, due to delayed gazettement.

In some cases, as indicated by the Gantsi office, some stakeholders lack the planning tools, institutional coordination and operational capacities to balance competing needs and optimise environment, social and economic outcomes.

"There is weak coordination in tackling poaching, wildlife poisoning; weak capacities for improving rangeland management in the communal lands and limited incentives for local communities to protect wildlife."

A few years ago, Government initiated a project to remove these barriers using the following strategies: Coordinating capacity for combating wildlife crime/trafficking and enforcement of wildlife policies and regulations at district, national and international levels.

Incentives and systems for wildlife protection by communities increase financial returns from natural resources exploitation and reduce human wildlife conflicts, securing livelihoods and biodiversity in the Kalahari landscape.

The biggest conservation success story from the area is the joint management of the Kalahari Transfrontier Park by Botswana (DWNP) and South Africa (SANParks). It is also the first transfrontier park in Africa. The two authorities (DWNP and SANParks) have continually worked together to harmonise conservation approaches across the KTP, which Senyatso said has benefited the wildlife in this land parcel, as demonstrated by healthy and increasing wildlife numbers for most species, some of which at some point faced possible extinction due to human persecution from poaching and illegal bush meat hunting.