* Asks global community to reward Botswana's conservation sacrifices

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has commended the country’s endeavours aimed at advancing conservation and wildlife management, while also urging the global community to acknowledge Botswana's ongoing dedication to these causes and provide further encouragement for its contributions.

Masisi said this during his visit to Mochaba Trophy Dealer Company in Maun where he spent the weekend after attending the Fourth Session of the Botswana- Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission last Friday.

He was directing his comments to critics here and abroad who still continue to spread unsubstantiated and unscientific campaign against Botswana hunting. For now, Botswana is off the hook, as she enjoyed the support of the

House of Lords, who last June shot down a motion for the approval of the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill.

The Bill sought to prohibit the import of endangered species as hunting trophies into Great Britain, helping to reduce the threats the species face. Had this Bill passed, companies like Mochaba Trophy Dealer would have closed shop.

On Saturday Masisi boldly reminded the armchair critics that Botswana has been a leader in promoting wildlife conservation and also enacting laws to protect the environment. He said this highlights the country’s significant achievements in conservation, particularly in safeguarding rare species.

Masisi did not mince his words, stating that those against hunting which is sanctioned by CITES should be reminded that Botswana was home to the largest elephant population, and such people must take note that trophy hunting has played a crucial role in conservation efforts.

“If Botswana did not protect the elephants, the world would not have such a great asset to enjoy. Hunting, conservation, stock piling, marketing, access to market and fairness remain consistent and I wish the world can understand our position as a country that trophy hunting ban will affect these assets and as such they will increase and kill the environment,” he said.

Last year Botswana moved strategically leaving no stone unturned in her bid to have communities continue to hunt in designated areas. Among others, the country won the sympathy of a Member of the House of Lords - Lord Benjamin Lloyd Stormont Mancroft - who in-turn managed to mobilise his colleagues to make a total of 22 Lords and later voted against the Trophy Hunting Bill.

Botswana argued at the time that accepting the Bill would devastate African wildlife, and the livelihoods of local communities that co-exist with the wildlife while concurrently managing some of the most fragile ecosystems in the world.

During 2014 to 2018 when Botswana had suspended trophy hunting, it experienced among others, significant reduction in income by CBOs, reduced employment prospects for CBOs; and increased food insecurity due to a lack of game meat for communities.

However, although Botswana has successfully put her case across, she is still not completely off the hook as there are those who still continue calling for banning of trophy sales. Masisi expressed concern about some organisations that support a ban on trophy hunting, stating that they may not fully understand the impact such a ban could have on wildlife and habitats.

Since the lifting of the hunting ban, President Masisi said communities had enjoyed economic benefits from sustainable and controlled hunting quotas. On Saturday President Masisi retreated that no country in the world has ever sacrificed more like Botswana in giving up the opportunity of the land and its use to conservation.

He said that Botswana had the highest conservation land ratios in Africa as close to 40 per cent of its land area was reserved for parks and other reserves.

“We are the most successful conservationists in the world, particularly with our majestic species of elephants and I would like the world to recognise what sacrifices we are making to succeed, reward our success and motivate our nationals, our country and others like us to continue to conserve these rare majestic species,” he said. Meanwhile the Managing Director at Mochaba Trophy Dealer Company, Debbie Peake, emphasised the importance of proper elephant management and highlighted the positive impact of trophy hunting in reducing humanwil-dlife conflicts and creating job opportunities.