The Sorry State Of Maun Educational Park!

Date:

  • The park’s neglect followed transfer of custody to Batawana
  • Lack of monitoring and patrols led to rise in poaching, & dilapidation of infrastructure
  • Park fence along the river porous 
  • Poachers cut fence each time it’s maintained
  • Trust moves to restore the facility to acceptable standards 
  • Plans to open it for public use before its transformed into a science park

Following the handover of the Maun Educational Park (MEP) to the Batawana community by government in 2019, the facility has remained neglected – leading to the dilapidation of the fence, rise in poaching and activities that generally go against ethos of conservation.

This was also exacerbated by the fact that the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) ceased to be responsible for the park upon transfer of ownership, and this spelt disaster as the Fauna Conservation Society of Ngamiland, was defunct and still to undergo re-registration.

After Tawana Land Board returned the park to Batawana at the directive of president Mokgweetsi Masisi, the tribe in October 2022 moved to register the trust that has been tasked to operate the area. The tribe collectively opted for the new trust to be the reincarnation of the old Fauna Conservation Society of Ngamiland that was decommissioned after Batawana handed over the administration and management of the same park to government in 1963.

MEP has over these years degenerated to a communal play ground – with poaching done on broad day light, snares placed inside the area to trap wild animals – and of recent drought seem to have also driven animals out of the park in search of pasture. However, even without the drought, the animals seem to be distressed – as dogs have made the park a hunting ground.

There is however some form of relief as the restored Fauna Conservation Society of Ngamiland that has now taken some measures, as the custodian of the park to restore the facility to acceptable standards of conservation.

Though, awaiting to hold its first Annual General Meeting(AGM), the interim board of the trust, made up of 10 members, with the 11th being Kgosi Tawana Moremi II as the principal trustee has since taken full responsibility of the park.

The board is faced with reality of the situation inside the park, especially poaching and the dilapidated fence.

“People use dogs to hunt the impalas, we also found some snares set up inside and there are also holes that were dug beneath the fence,” the trust chairperson, Tiego Mpho confirmed in an interview noting that they deal with the same problem repeatedly.

He indicated that they have since engaged the police to assist them with surveillance in an attempt to arrest the culprits.

Tiego also noted that another challenge was that wild animals were also escaping through the damaged fence into the village. Of recent, Mpho said they managed to track back about 13 zebras that had left the park. He said the situation is worsened by the fact that there is no grass inside and the animals have surpassed the carrying capacity of the park.

To address this, Mpho revealed that they have managed to secure sponsorship from the private sector to fix the fence at a cost of P 2million, which also covered the removal of snares, and making a patrol route inside the park to ensure daily patrols.

He added that the trust has also partnered with Conservation of Natural Ecosystems Trust (CONNECT) for conservation management services.

“They are the ones who have fixed the fence. They are also patrolling the park as well as conducting population counts of the animals to see if they are in line with the carrying capacity of the park or not,” the chairman indicated.

Meanwhile Mpho has revealed that plans are underway to open the park for public use for activities comprising of picnics, walks, environmental education and training programmes for schools including the Botswana Wildlife Training Institute(BWTI). The ultimate goal however is to transform the area into a science park over the next five or seven years and it is expected to become a business incubator for advanced technology projects.

About Maun Educational Park

Situated in the heart of Maun along the Thamalakane River, the Maun Educational Park (MEP) was established in the 1960’s.

It was initially run by Batawana community throaugh their society ‘Fauna Conservation Society of Ngamiland’ which would later hand over its administration and management to government under the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

Fast forward in 2013 government made plans to privatise the park and transform it into a multimillion Pula tourism hub with some of the proposed tourism developments including a five-star upmarket hotel and another 150-rooms five-star hotel with entertainment, gaming, retail and restaurant facilities.

The move coordinated by the then Minister of Environment and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama did not seat well with Batawana led by their Paramount Chief, Tawana Moremi II who protested that the park belonged to them demanding for government to hand it back.

After a lengthy dispute between the tribe and government, the proposed project never saw the light despite the State having already acquired around P45 million to develop the park, and an investor allegedly identified.

This was all to change with the change of administration in 2018, with President Mokgweetsi Masisi announcing at Kgosi Tawana’s birthday celebrations that the Maun Education Park has been given back to Batawana for it run by a trust belonging to the people, led by the Kgosi for the benefit of the community.

Subsequently, in 2020, Tawana Land Board approved the transfer of the park from the government of Botswana to Batawana and advised them to form a community trust or submit the name of an established trust in order to facilitate the transfer of the park.

The tribe in October 2022 moved to register a new trust and they collectively opted for it to be the reincarnation of the old Fauna Conservation Society of Ngamiland that had was already decommissioned.

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