Wildlife Conservation In The Northern System

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The tourism industry is the second largest foreign exchange earner after diamond mining. Botswana’s tourism industry largely remains wildlife-based and is carried out in the northern parts of the country, especially in the Okavango and Chobe regions (Mbaiwa, 2005). Consequently, the government with its commitment to ensure sustainability has reserved 39% of the total land area to wildlife conservation (Central Statistics Office, 2004). Wildlife utilization is of paramount importance towards land use especially in Botswana because of its semi-arid conditions. It has little environmental impacts on the environment hence a high priority. Tourism utilization and management is managed by the Department of Tourism and Department of Wildlife and National Park. The importance of wildlife has been utilized among citizens through giving natural resources rights to the communities. Protected areas in Botswana are divided into two systems namely; the Northern system which is slightly wetter and the Kalahari system which is semi-arid (Richter, 1975) Besides Botswana’s wildlife populations, the two systems have been having management challenges. This paper will be discussing specifically the wildlife management challenges faced by the Northern system and how best they can be addressed.

The Northern system has high wildlife biomass and tourism potential as it covers the Okavango Delta and the Chobe region (Parry, 1990). The Okavango Delta itself is a tourism resource and provides a scenic beauty thus creating a favorable environment for breeding of wildlife and aquatic species (Mbaiwa J. E., 2003). The ecosystem is one of the wet bands of Botswana providing hydrological and economic value to the region. The involvement of the local community in this region has also played a role in the conservation of wildlife through regulations concerning hunting and the introduction of Community Based Natural Resource Management (Richter, 1975). Besides this area doing well in terms of flora and fauna, the Northern system has been experiencing wildlife population declines which came as a threat to wildlife conservation. Some of the wildlife management challenges that exist in the Northern system are as follows;

Human-wildlife conflict

Human-wildlife conflict threatens wildlife conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources (Gusset, 2009). Human-wildlife conflict is prevalent in the Northern system due to conflicting land uses located adjacent to each other. For example; the expansion of agricultural land into natural wildlife areas in the buffer zones adjacent to Chobe National Park and Moremi Game reserve has resulted into livestock depredation (TJjibae, 2001). Loss of critical habitat to wildlife may become one of the threats to the survival of endangered species including elephant and lions. Wildlife threats to the livelihoods of the people have created a stereotype towards wildlife as people perceive them to be beneficial to the government only. These incidents threaten wildlife conservation as local people poison them as there are a growing number of lions being killed in the region (The World Group, 2009). Climate Change

There is a growing concern with regards to nature based tourism as climate change due to anthropogenic activities impacts on natural resources (Becken, 2007).Climate change in Botswana may reduce prevalent vegetation and forages affecting wildlife species and their habitat. A survey of the Okavango Delta has showed that wildlife species population has decreased in the past 15 years leading to the reduction of wildlife around the delta (Central Statistics Office, 2004). Most wildlife species are adapted to arid conditions, but there are always limit to those adaptation (Stapelberg, 2008). Drought can be a threat to wildlife resources as they are bound to die because of unavailability of water. The water situation in Botswana is going to rise with increasing temperatures due to climate change (Du Pisani, 1990). This will also affect the Okavango Delta and increase its evapo-transpiration which will leave water shortage affecting both humans and wildlife (Dube, 2003). Dry periods perpetuates reduced wildlife migration and distribution which can contribute to degradation of natural resources in wildlife concentrated areas such as the elephants in the Chobe district (Hulme, 1996). Another threat that comes with climate change is the harboring of wildlife diseases. Diseases outbreak to changes in temperature, rainfall and humility can be a threat to wildlife existence.

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Cordon Fences and Physical barriers

Since human-wildlife conflict is prevalent in the Northern system, fencing is one of the methods used to control animal movements also keeping away the spread of diseases. The use of physical barriers and cordon fences to separate wildlife and people is threating fragmentation of African rangelands (Ferguson, 2012). Veterinary cordon fencing varies in terms of erection and purpose and it is difficult to identify the total length of the fences. This fencing also include the foot and mouth fences which helps in keeping away wild herbivores such as buffalos from livestocks. Fencing creates a physical barrier and also expensive to maintain. This creates a situation whereby funds are directed towards maintenance of cordon fences instead of the conservation of wildlife. Fencing can be beneficial towards wildlife as it can be used for the conservation of endangered species. Government also saves a lot of money with fencing to protect livestock from getting affected by diseases. Poaching or Illegal Hunting

Illegal hunting is severe in the African Continent whereby illegal hunters enjoy access of public resources at no cost (Rogan, 2015). The illegal hunting is a widespread activity in the Northern ecosystem of Botswana where there is abundance of wildlife. The hunters are usually armed with guns and target game animals for either for meat, skin or ivory in the case of elephants. Most poaching happens around protected areas (Rogan, 2015). There are three types of poaching behaviours in Sub-Saharan Africa which are; subsistence, trophy and commercial (Henk, 2005). Subsistence poachers are those that hunt game animals as food sources while trophy and commercial poachers make large scale killings of game animals for profit. Poaching has a negative impact on wildlife as it has reduced the population of the fauna species especially large mammals (Obour, 2016). Illegal hunting removes more herbivores in the ecosystem than any other predator excluding loins and also threatens the survival of large carnivores by increasing competition for them over preys (Rogan, 2015). Solutions

There should be local people empowerment through the legal use of wildlife. Benefit sharing can be an approach to render useful support from communities for conservation efforts (Osei-Owusu, 2008). Some of the revenue creating streams such as eco-tourism and tourism hunting should be made available to the community. Community-Based Natural Resources Management should be reviewed in way that local people benefit and also given legal rights to wildlife so that they have a sense of belonging. The hunting ban should be lifted. This is an approach where by local communities would benefit from the revenues accumulated from the quotas and it would also act as a management tool for wildlife population. The involvement of youth and village leaders could be beneficial to wildlife management as they are cable of bringing new ideas of wildlife based revenue streams (Rogan, 2015).

The government of Botswana recognizes the role of land rehabilitation and forest management as the key providers of the ecosystem services. Adaptation measures should be put in place to manage climate change. Adaptation priorities include, community based natural resources management for the sustainable use of natural resources and grazing practices (Wingqvist, 2008). Climate change research should be conducted in developing technology that will help in managing risk associated with it hence having minimal impact on wildlife.

Since the erection of the veterinary fence is for the protection of both the wildlife and livestock, the problem can be addressed by encouraging the integration of wildlife management and livestock production programs (Mbaiwa J. &., 2006). This approach will allow for both two sectors to be given equal priorities without disadvantaging the other. Environmental Impact Assessment should also be undertaken before constructing any barrier or fence. This will allow the assessment to major repercussions of constructing these fences. Removals of some of this fences can have positive impacts on wildlife as they would move freely increasing their population and reducing stress (Mbaiwa J. &., 2006).

The importance of wildlife management and conservation in Botswana should be a number one priority. Environmental education and outreach should be conducted in relevant areas to raise awareness about the importance of wildlife in terms of uplifting people livelihoods and the economy of a country at large. There is low proportion of the public that values wildlife (Rogan, 2015). Most of the people perceive wildlife to be beneficial to the government only (Gusset, 2009). Many people in the Northern region of Botswana believes that wildlife is abundant thus inexhaustible. Public information campaigns must be conducted in order to engage communities about wildlife mismanagement and the repercussions. All the stakeholders must be engaged in order to fight illegal hunting. Botswana is very strict when it comes to illegal hunting and poaching of wildlife. The Botswana Defence Force and the Anti-Poaching Unit from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks are involved heavily in reducing poaching around the country. The BDF is more deployed at cross-border poaching by armed hunters (Henk, 2005). Game ranching can create employment, produce legal game meat and lead to sustainable use of wildlife (Rogan, 2015). Game ranches can also allow for the conservation of endangered species and allow wildlife population to increase.

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