What the UK can learn from Botswana about looking after animals

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by Charlie Jacoby

Big African animals from a dozen species browsing next to each other on green savannah. It’s a scene that the British government struggles to understand, because these are wild animals thriving in a southern African hunting country. The British government takes the view that these animals can’t be thriving, because they can be hunted. In the Palace of Westminster, thousands of miles away, it wants to bring in laws aimed at forcing African countries to change the way they manage their wildlife.

The British government is backing a private members’ bill to ban the import of hunting trophies, which aims to tell foreign countries how to run their internal affairs. The UK Foreign Office backs this view. As she writes in the Daily Mail, Botswana’s minister of tourism, Philda Nani Kereng, says the British government could not be more wrong.

She writes: “I travelled to London to highlight the terrible impact this bill would have on conservation efforts, not only in my country but in other African nations as well.

“Of course, this might come as a surprise to Mail readers disgusted by the thought of someone slaughtering for sport any of the magnificent animals roaming across the beautiful African landscape.

“And believe me, I do understand the horror people feel when they see a photograph of a trophy hunter posing beside a recent kill. Lion killings in particular seem to cause outrage among Britons, especially after the notorious shooting of Cecil the lion by a US trophy hunter in Zimbabwe in 2015.

“The widely circulated picture of Walter Palmer standing over Cecil’s body became emblematic of man’s destructive relationship with nature.

“Reasonable though this reaction is, it is a knee-jerk one. It fails to acknowledge that for many African nations, trophy hunting is vital for the local population.”

Most British MPs support the UK government in what some point out are racist policies towards mainly African nations. A handful of British MPs, including Sir Bill Wiggin, back regulated hunting as part of conservation efforts.

The UK’s record on wildlife management is not good. Yale University’s Species Protection Index puts the UK at 125th in the world. Botswana is number one. Should Botswana listen to lectures on wildlife management from the UK?

The ban on trophy hunting follows a campaign of hatespeech against hunters by a group of animal rights extremist MPs. Their all-party parliamentary group is now under investigation by the House of Commons Standards agency and its publications are the subject of legal action. The APPG has been forced to take down its website.

While British MPs and government ministers lecture the rest if the world on wildlife management, Botswana is faced with the reality of balancing the needs of its wildlife with the needs of its people.

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