Botswana parliament has voted against a call to rearm its game rangers, two years after guns were taken from wildlife officers.
An opposition member of the Botswana National Assembly, Kgoborego Nkawana, had brought the proposal before the legislators, arguing that a surge in rhinoceros poaching necessitated equipping the rangers with guns.
But at the weekend, the lawmakers threw the proposal out, with all ruling party members voting against it.
Nkawana described his failure to get the game rangers rearmed as a “big loss” and a missed “opportunity to save our rhinos and other animals, particularly up in the north. Maybe over time, we can see how we can address the government over that issue.”
Most of the poaching takes place in the thickets of Botswana’s vast Okavango Delta.
Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Permanent Secretary, Oduetse Koboto, said the disarmament of the wildlife officers unit in 2018 was not behind the rise in poaching incidents.
“It is not like in the past, the strategy succeeded because there was something different that was done,” Koboto said.
“It is simply because the environmental conditions changed drastically [in the Delta].”
Koboto said rangers’ anti-poaching efforts are focused farther from the Delta, in areas where there is less threat of armed poachers like the Kgalagadi wildlife preserve.
“When it comes to anti-poaching, their [rangers] efforts are largely focused in Kgalagadi,” he said.
“Those firearms, they had them in Kgalagadi and not in the Delta. This is where I am failing to find the relationship between arms and rhino poaching. Even if they could be having them [firearms] today, they could be sitting with them in Kgalagadi.”
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