- Threats to Conservation, Tourism and Public Health
A week ago, there was a report that more than 50 white-backed vultures were found dead in Botswana’s northern Chobe district in a concession area named CH/1. This concession area is under the custody of the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust (CECT).
The CECT consists of the five villages of Kachikau, Kavimba, Mabele, Satau and Parakarungu. CECT apparently has been leased the two Controlled Hunting Areas of CH/1 and CH/2 which both cover the Forestry Reserve and have an abundant wildlife and bird species.
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) was noted to be investigating the deaths of the vultures. DWNP suspected poisoning as the main cause of death. The vultures are reported to have died after feeding on a poached buffalo carcass laced with poison. This is not the first incident of poisoning in Botswana. There has been other numerous incidents reported in different parts of the country in the past.
The use of poison baits is mostly used worldwide to eradicate animals such as predators and pests and those considered to be harmful to certain human activities, particularly livestock farming and other agricultural practices. In this regard, illegal wildlife poisoning represents an urgent conservation issue.
Illegal wildlife poisoning has devastating effects on populations of threatened species. It can led to a local and regional extinctions of threatened species such as birds of prey and vultures. Illegal wildlife poisoning can also pose a danger to public health. Unaware human beings may easily encounter poisoned animals, and this can result in human death.
Poisoning of wildlife does not only kill the intended animals but silently kills other animals. The placement of poison baits in the open is a non-selective method for killing animals. This method does not discriminate as almost every domestic and wild animal that ingests poison baits dies.
Scavengers like vultures and wolves can then feed on these poisoned carcasses and meet a tragic end themselves. Since the poisoning of vultures at CH/1 took place near the Namibian border, it should be acknowledged that wildlife knows no political borders, meaning that animals ingesting poison baits can sometimes travel to neighbouring countries.
As a result, poisoning of wildlife at CH/1 can result in these animals moving into neighbouring countries potentially causing secondary poisoning and killing other species and humans in the process. There are several preventive measures that exist that can be used to reduce damages inflicted on livestock and wildlife species through poisoning.
This includes coming up with strong measures to resolve potential human-wildlife conflicts. Human wildlife conflicts especially with predators that kill livestock or with animals such as elephants which cause crop damage. Governments and authorities should therefore develop strong strategies to address human wildlife conflicts. This includes the involvement of stakeholders especially agro-pastoralists in the decision-making process on the mitigation measures of human wildlife conflicts. Where wildlife poisoning is carried out by poachers, authorities should develop integrated resource management strategies to combat the illegal harvesting of wildlife species. The poisoning of wildlife in tourism areas will ultimately affect the tourism industry. This therefore suggests that tourism operators should be involved in wildlife anti-poaching activities especially in concession areas leased to them.