Water for Elephants Trust, Botswana

The real elephant problem in Botswana

by
Simon Espley
Friday, 13 October 2017

There is a crisis of elephantine proportions playing out in the dry sandy Kalahari woodlands of eastern Botswana, and a determined family of caring people is caught in the middle of the drama. A friend and I spent a few days with them in September this year, and came away determined to help. I hope that my story inspires you to do the same.

Thousands of thirsty elephants utilise the tiny waterhole at Elephant Sands bush lodge and campsite, because it is one of a few reliable sources of water in this vast arid landscape – especially during the height of the dry season. The result is often chaos as elephants arrive in their hundreds, exhausted, dehydrated and anxious – with ensuing destruction of infrastructure and property and even injury to younger elephants that get bullied by the massive bulls.

Thirsty elephants drinking water at Elephant Sands. Water for Elephants Trust, Botswana

Thirsty elephants drinking water at Elephant Sands © Shaun Malan

Something must be done. Something is being done. First though, here is the back story:

The ‘elephant problem’

We so often hear people espousing that there are “too many elephants” in places such as Chobe, Hwange and Kruger. And the terms ‘elephant damage’ (pushed over trees and damaged property) and the ‘elephant problem’ slip so easily off the tongue and define elephant discussion.

But what does that all mean – how can there be “too many” elephants when elephant populations are collapsing due to industrial-scale poaching and human-wildlife conflict? Do we even understand what we are saying? If we substitute the word ‘elephant’ with ‘human’, would we be closer to the truth? The ‘human problem’.

Examples of damage to property caused by elephants searching for water:

To read more about the human problem in Botswana, continue reading below the advert

The ‘human problem’

During the rainy seasons elephants (and other migratory species such as zebras and wildebeests) spread out across vast areas, utilising the temporary surface water and seasonal nutritious grasses, buds and leaves. Vast areas of the Kalahari, including Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, Chobe National Park in Botswana, and the vast salt pans of central Botswana, are utilised in this way.

As surface water dries up, the animals migrate towards permanent water sources such as the Chobe River, which banks used to be covered in thick teak forests. But humans cut down many of the large teak trees during commercial logging operations in the area and turned them into furniture and railway sleepers – compromising the ecosystem. And so, the ‘human problem’ began.

The sandy teak woodland typical of eastern Botswana.

The sandy teak woodland typical of eastern Botswana has few permanent water sources. Some of Africa’s protected areas, for example Hwange in Zimbabwe, were declared without the consideration of the seasonality of water and food resources in those areas © Simon Espley

Then we cut through migration routes with tar roads that carry large volumes of massive trucks day and night and we erected veterinary fences across core ecosystems so vital to migrating species. This is to satisfy European Union beef import rules – is that beef steak worth the true cost? And we fenced off the prime areas for farming and other development – which we guard jealously and with brute force – most often with fatal consequences for wildlife.

And international crime syndicates swooped in to set up efficient poaching networks that ruthlessly exterminate wildlife in shocking quantities – forcing elephants to escape the persecution and head for the relative safety of Botswana. Did you know that Botswana now hosts more than one-third of Africa’s surviving elephants?

To protect elephants and other species from these pressures we created national parks, and we try to keep the animals inside these arbitrarily declared boundaries. Hwange National Park, for example, is largely made up of deciduous woodland low in nutritional value on Kalahari sand and has very little year-round water, and so the park is littered with man-made boreholes, in an attempt to keep the animals in and provide year-round viewing for tourism camps. In fact, the boreholes are so ubiquitous to Hwange that they are known as the ‘heartbeat of Hwange’ – due to the diesel put-putting noise. In Hwange’s case the authorities are so bad at maintaining these boreholes that charities and tourism lodges do so instead.

Trophy hunters add to the pressure on migratory species by picking off prime male elephants, lions and other species as they migrate out of protected areas in search of seasonal water and food or on a mission to secure breeding opportunities so vital for genetic integrity. Africa is littered with protected areas that were formed without thought to seasonal cycles and periods of drought. And these protected cores are surrounded by danger for migrating wildlife.

More and more elephants are crowding onto the already compromised banks of the Chobe River and other areas, where they feel relatively safe, and staying there for longer than the ecosystem can currently sustain.

And so, because the remaining elephants are crammed into smaller and smaller spaces, these special creatures become the ‘elephant problem’.

Elephant and child. Water for Elephants Trust, Botswana

© Shaun Malan

To read more about trophy hunting concessions, continue reading below the advert

Trophy hunting concessions

Hunting on Botswana state land was banned in 2014, a brave move by a visionary government that has a clear vision of the future. However, the huge arid concessions in THIS part of Botswana are not entirely suitable for photographic tourism lodges, which require year-round wildlife sightings in order to be commercially viable – which in turn requires year-round water availability. In fact, when these concessions were closed to hunting they were offered to tourism operators, but the primary focus at the time was on the lucrative concessions in the Okavango Delta and Chobe River areas, and so these vast dry ecosystems remain largely unutilised by the tourism industry.

Elephants and tourist - Water for Elephants Trust, Botswana

© Shaun Malan

And, paradoxically perhaps, the boreholes drilled by these trophy hunting operators did provide much-needed water to wildlife in this arid area of Botswana. The boreholes were drilled to attract wildlife to hunter guns, so let’s not pretend that this was a compassionate gesture by the hunters. BUT by many accounts the legal hunting offtake was not significant, when compared to poaching and human-wildlife conflict pressure elsewhere. When the hunters left the concessions, they took their equipment with them, and so elephants and other species in the area were safe from the guns of hunters, but at risk because of the lack of water…

 Thirsty elephants drinking water at Elephant Sands. Water for Elephants Trust, Botswana

Thirsty elephants drinking water at Elephant Sands © Shaun Malan

Along came Ben and Marie Moller

At about the time of the hunting ban Ben and Marie built Elephant Sands lodge and campsite just south of these former hunting concessions – as a retirement hobby. They roped in family members including daughter Saskia and son-in-law Mike Toth, who manages the entire operation. And they dug a borehole to feed a waterhole to attract wildlife to the area. That water source has now become a vital lifeline for elephants from the area, particularly during the dry months, when they gather and jostle in their hundreds.

Dehydrated baby elephant. Water for Elephants Trust, Botswana

Many elephants arrive at the Elephant Sands waterhole dehydrated and barely able to stand. This baby arrived bewildered and without parents, and died soon after © Water for Elephants

The problem with having only this one water source for miles around is that during the very dry months when there is no surface water for hundreds of miles, elephants at the waterhole are quite literally fighting for their lives. Many arrive literally battling to stay upright, after travelling for days in the blistering heat. Tempers become frayed and young elephants and cows are sometimes bullied out of the way and even injured by the massive bulls. And so, the cows go to desperate lengths to access water – including breaking down lodge ablution facilities and borehole equipment. This is not a sustainable situation.

Does Ben take the high road and not meddle with nature by providing water for elephants and other species? We often hear some purists say “don’t play God with nature”. But what does that mean, really, when humans have created the problem in the first place? For Ben and his family, there is no such moral dilemma. Elephants are dying of thirst and they need help.

 

Water for Elephants Trust

And so, Water for Elephants Trust was born. In a nutshell, Water for Elephants Trust is working with the authorities to install and maintain as many boreholes over as great an area as possible in this part of eastern Botswana. This will hopefully remove the pressure from current bottleneck areas, and allow the elephants and other wildlife to range over greater areas, putting less pressure on food resources. Each borehole will provide water for 800 elephants and countless other species during the dry season. A string of well-maintained boreholes in this area could conceivably help to stitch together the vast Chobe, Okavango Delta, Pans and Hwange ecosystems and help wildlife migrate seasonally, as they should be doing. Visit their Facebook page for regular updates on their progress to ensure elephants remain safe.

And, if you are as moved as I am by the plight of these elephants and wish to make a difference, email Water for Elephants Trust at waterforelephantstrust@gmail.com and offer your support, financial or otherwise.

 

Thirsty elephants drinking from pipe. Water for Elephants Trust, Botswana

© Water for Elephants

So much drama, so many stories

Life at Elephant Sands is pretty hectic. The team have become used to baby elephants being injured by the jostling adults, or arriving dehydrated and unable to even stand. These babies often die – heartbreaking for all concerned. The recent tragic accidental death by electrocution of nine elephants that pushed a power pylon into a pool of water they were drinking from, happened not far south of Elephant Sands – yet another symptom of water-stressed elephants. And then there is Benny, a bull elephant who arrived in camp in August 2015 with a festering foot injury that required treatment.

Benny was successfully treated and now visits camp sporadically to seek out Mike Toth, who sometimes obliges with a trunk rub and squirt of clean water from a hosepipe. Bennie even popped in for a visit on 12 August 2017 – World Elephant Day! Read Benny’s full story here.

View this video about Benny and Mike below: 

To read more about this crisis, continue reading below the advert

 

 This is about more than just elephants

One consequence of large numbers of elephants congregating at scarce water resources is that other wildlife species are forced out during the melee. Many species are secretive and wary when drinking water, and the pressure of jostling elephants day and night is just too much for them. And so, general wildlife populations have plummeted in many areas since the boreholes were removed – leading to knock-on effects for other species.

During our brief stay in the area, we embarked on a few forays into the former hunting concessions north of Elephant Sands – to inspect boreholes, get a feel for the condition of the veld and to look for wildlife. We saw plenty of elephants and some buffaloes, kudus, impalas and other species. But overall my observation, based on an admittedly short stay, was that there does seem to be a lack of significant numbers of general wildlife species in the area.

On one occasion we disturbed four lions, including two large and magnificent males, one of whom was spitting with anger and malevolence and left us in no doubt that we were not welcome. His loud Harley Davidson-like grumbling continued long after we backed off from his charge and got in the vehicle to withdraw and leave them to their privacy. On another occasion, a flock of tiny black-faced waxbills working the pollen puff balls of an acacia tree reminded me of the detail and interconnectedness of ecosystems such as this.

We also found a lioness that had been flattened by a speeding truck on the main tar road between Kasane and Nata. Africa is a rough and tough place for all that eke out an existence in her wild areas. But we humans have negatively impacted on these vast primal ecosystems, making life even more difficult for many species. We can make things easier for elephants and other species if we support Water for Elephants in their mission to provide much-needed water.

The following photos represent the diversity of this area, sometimes written off as barren and uninteresting, and the many stories to be told.

From top left: Wild dogs compete with elephants for scarce water resources (© Water for Elephants); Grumpy lion (© Shawn Meaker); Road kill (© Shawn Meaker); Dry pan (© Simon Espley); Black-faced waxbill (© Shawn Meaker)

Young leopard at a borehole waterhole (© Water for Elephants); Buffaloes battle to survive without daily access to water (© Shawn Meaker); Kudus and impalas rely on the boreholes for water in this dry ecosystem (© Shawn Meaker)

View a map of the area below:

 

Getting there

Simon’s flights from Cape Town to Maun were arranged by Airlink, who offer multi-destination flight options across southern Africa and a convenient Lodge Link program, direct to popular lodges in the Kruger National Park

Travel to Botswana with Africa Geographic

Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early or late and a few kilometers off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity? Read more about Botswana here, or contact an Africa Geographic safari consultant to plan your dream vacation.

To read more about the author, continue reading below the advert

 

About the author

Simon Espley, Africa Geographic CEOSimon Espley is an African of the digital tribe, a chartered accountant and CEO of Africa Geographic. His travels in Africa are in search of wilderness, real people with interesting stories and elusive birds. He lives in Cape Town with his wife Lizz and two Jack Russells, and when not travelling or working he will be on his mountain bike somewhere out there. His motto is ‘Live for now, have fun, be good, tread lightly and respect others. And embrace change.’

 

Water for Elephants Trust, Botswana

© Shaun Malan

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Tania D

    Humans are the only species that deserve extinction.

    • Avril Craye

      I agree whole-heartedly

      • homanahomana

        Yes! You two should both kill yourselves!

        • Tania D

          Oh Braveheart, commenting incognito..you provide proof to our sentiment. 😉

        • Chris Voets

          What an educated and intelligent suggestion, homanahomana who won’t give his real name…. (where’s the upturned eyes button?)

  • Duncan

    Water for Elephants: The Friends of Hwange Trust is doing an incredible job installing and maintaining Solar Panel pumps around in excess of 20 pans within the National Park; cost of each at around US$ 12k. No need for diesel or regular filling. The “heartbeat” of Hwange is now silent; but water relief in the long dry winter is effective. This make for a wonderful success story. Getting Charities and Foundations involved is a positive intervention.

    • Simon Espley

      Thanks Duncan, will relay your advice to the Water For Elephants team …

  • Peter Apps

    It is a sad paradox that some of the most strident advocates for the hunting ban, whose entirely predictable consequence was that the boreholes in concessions CT1, 2 and 3 would no longer be pumped, make profits from their concessions in the prime areas of the Okavango but leave the provision of water (and jobs) in the previous hunting concessions to charities.

    • Simon Espley

      Indeed Peter, there are so many layers to the situation …

      • Graeme Pollock

        yes Simon as is the Transnet , eskom , Trillion , SABC, KPMG situation in SA the many layers go back to one layer which is never addressed .

      • Graeme Pollock

        simon you clearly spoke to enough people to know exactly why hunting was banned ,you know evrybody in Botswana opposed it save for one personal friend of the powers that be , yet you write as if the ban was welcomed , why do you never report the truth of the ban and then defend it , the newspapers covered the truth extensively yet Nat Geo and AG consistently refuse to tell the truth , go speak to any local community / village / farmers assoc / newspaper they willgive you the truth , we cant because we will deported and be thought to be biased , which is why you guys continue 4 years later to hide the truth from your readership. This is the layer , just like Gupta gate that protects the truth from getting out there .

        • Mike Sebastian

          Huh? The largest tourism lodge group by far in Botswana (Wilderness Safaris) was very much for the removal of hunting – their founder Colin Bell frequently clashed with the hunting fraternity on matters of ethics and the truth behind the numbers. On that fact alone your dramatic and sweeping claim is proven to be just hot air.

        • Graeme Pollock
        • Graeme Pollock

          Here is the abstract from the academic study exposing the illegal ban on conservation hunting and the so called benefits of photo based tourism in Botswana .

          Abstract

          This paper examines the effects of the safari hunting ban of 2014 on rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Northern Botswana using the social exchange theory. The paper used both primary and secondary data sources. Data were analysed qualitatively. Results indicate that the ban led to a reduction of tourism benefits to local communities such as: income, employment opportunities, social services such as funeral insurance, scholarships and income required to make provision of housing for the needy and elderly. After the hunting ban, communities were forced to shifts from hunting to photographic tourism. Reduced tourism benefits have led to the development of negative attitudes by rural residents towards wildlife conservation and the increase in incidents of poaching in Northern Botswana. The implications of hunting ban suggest that policy shifts that affect wildlife conservation and rural livelihoods need to be informed by socio-economic and ecological research. This participatory and scientific approach to decision-making has the potential to contribute sustainability of livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Botswana.

    • Graeme Pollock

      Dear Peter this was actualy an option presented to the major operators at a meeting and their representative informed BTO ( government ) that it was not financialy viable or sustainable for them to take over the management they further stated that they are not land managers but tourism operators . They reiterated their opposisition to closing hunting and recognized the role of the hunting companies in managing and developing the marginal buffer zones . Only Dereck Joubert motivated for the ban using misinformation to mislead government . The fact that the entire tourism industry including hotels , lodges , airlines , travel agents, charter companies , researchers , conservation societies ,The Univeristy of Botswana opposed the ban yet it still went ahead on the motivation one person should alert any reasonable person irrespective of their view on hunting – think Gupta gate .

      • Peter Apps

        I was aware of that Graham.

      • Mike Sebastian

        Huh? The largest tourism lodge group by far in Botswana (Wilderness Safaris) was very much for the removal of hunting – their founder Colin Bell frequently clashed with the hunting fraternity on matters of ethics and the truth behind the numbers. On that fact alone your dramatic and sweeping claim is proven to be just hot air.

        • Graeme Pollock

          Mike Sebastian you a funny guy – Colin Bell is a personal friend of mine and does not oppose hunting outright ,we have discussd this often ,he is strongly against hunting where photo based tourism is the better option ( in his opinion ) , he has strong reservations and i respect his opinion but dont always agree , however Colin was not with Wilderness when the ban was enforced , I wont go into the details but WS history with the hunting industry is very complex . So you are the one I am afraid who is misleading readers , WS is on record at workshops and meetings who opposed the ban and did not support the ban , you can ask DWNP for minutes of meetings.

          • Simon Espley

            G’day Graeme. Colin and I go a long way back but I would not pretend to speak for him. We started our respective businesses at about the same time, he lives down the road, and we have shared many moments during debates such as these – sometimes sharing speaking engagements. Suffice to say that the Wilderness Safaris situation is indeed complex – even more so in Namibia. They have to make politically-aligned decisions in order to protect the areas they operate in. IMHO they are a fine business, leading the way in this space, and gradually taking away from trophy hunting territories. You seem though to allow yourself and your arguments the flexibility so necessary in this industry, and yet hammer others who do the same – slamming them as being ignorant or somehow misleading. Same strategy as the ARAs. Again, perhaps you should approach these matters in a less adversarial manner? You and I probably agree on many matters, and should respectfully disagree on others. Either way, keep the passion, perhaps we will meet one day. I am often in Bots and would happily grab a coffee with you.

          • Graeme Pollock

            Hi Simon, yes I am certain we have a common goal and objective , our methodologies differ based on our influences. You have asked some question in the other comment that will require lengthy reply, on the CB link I was not speaking on his behalf but commenting on a discussion we have had in the past , as you know CB has strong convictions but is open to debate even if he disagrees with you. Our stance on the rhino horn ban being a strong example. the American Indians have a saying that the left wing and the right wing are the wings of the same bird . I further add that unless the 2 wings beat in rhythm the bird can never take flight and achieve its destination. This is so true of conservation. However I think that you have misjudged me , I am 100% in favor of best land use which is required to fund conservation, habitat and biodiversity. Conservation of species is a far less important conservation objective. So if photo based or non consumptive utilization (misnomer) is the best land use then I am 200% in support. Would you not say That’s where we differ ?. I and we are not single minded about land use , the minutes of the BWMA records that its members (hunters and concessionaires) agreed that photo based tourism would outperform hunting as single use in the Okavango Delta and we agreed not to contest land use in those WMA’s. The same cannot be said about marginal areas , but radicals are not prepared to opt for the best land use , so the argument we are single minded is again incorrect.

          • Graeme Pollock

            SIMON here is the abstract from the link provided exposing the illegal ban and its so called photo tourism benefits

            Abstract

            This paper examines the effects of the safari hunting ban of 2014 on rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Northern Botswana using the social exchange theory. The paper used both primary and secondary data sources. Data were analysed qualitatively. Results indicate that the ban led to a reduction of tourism benefits to local communities such as: income, employment opportunities, social services such as funeral insurance, scholarships and income required to make provision of housing for the needy and elderly. After the hunting ban, communities were forced to shifts from hunting to photographic tourism. Reduced tourism benefits have led to the development of negative attitudes by rural residents towards wildlife conservation and the increase in incidents of poaching in Northern Botswana. The implications of hunting ban suggest that policy shifts that affect wildlife conservation and rural livelihoods need to be informed by socio-economic and ecological research. This participatory and scientific approach to decision-making has the potential to contribute sustainability of livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Botswana.

        • Graeme Pollock

          Mike Sebastian ,you can also aquire proceedings for the Tourism Pitso held in Gaborone from the Ministry where the tourism industry opposed the ban , you can contact the The University of Botswana and KCS who can confirm the above .

        • Graeme Pollock

          Mike the Policy of botswana was not to allocate more than one concession per operator , why are you not questioning how certain operators have more than one ???? ,

        • Graeme Pollock

          Mike here is a link by academics and the detrimental affects of the illegal ban on conservation hunting , please also look up other published papers on the link that will provide information on the so called benefits of photo based tourism and the livelihoods of local people , once you and other misinformed people grasp the reality the increase in poaching and the declines in wildlife throughout Africa will start to make sense , it will expose the lies perpetuated by the likes of Dereck Joubert and Ian Michler , you and others will then see how you have been robbed of your well intended donations to anti hunting NGO’s .

          http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03736245.2017.1299639?journalCode=rsag20

  • Neville Lance

    Well done Simon – I will spread the word as best as I am able and herewith offer my (and my wife Pat’s) assistance in whatever way we might find possible – please link us into the network and don’t be afraid to ask ….. if we can we will – if we can’t we will say so. (neville@propics.co.za)
    Neville and Pat Lance

    • Simon Espley

      Thanks Neville, inbox me on Facebook if you have some ideas.

  • Vikram

    Very informative article. On my recent trip to Botswana, I saw a former hunting camp is complete disarray. Looks like the concessionaire had no interest in running a photographic operation. Are these hunting concessions which are considered non productive, up for fresh leases? Some like minded persons can come together and start an operation there not to make money but to sustain the local wildlife populations. Any thoughts on this?

    • Peter Apps

      Vikram, the lack of interest in photographic tourism in the former hunting concessions is mostly based on a the hard economic realities that the hunting concessions do not have the scenery and year-round game numbers and variety that high paying international customers demand – and without those high paying customers the areas will not bring in enough income to cover their lease fees and all the other costs. If some true conservationists were prepared to fill the financial gap between what limited tourism could bring in and the costs of the operation it would make a huge contribution to securing large areas of critical wildlife habitat.

      • Vikram

        Thank you Peter. How can I help in personal capacity?

        • Peter Apps

          Vikram, please e-mail me on peterjapps(at)gmail.com.

      • Simon Espley

        Hi Peter. Talk to me if you have some ideas. Am working on a plan. Inbox me on FB.

    • Simon Espley

      Thanks Vikram. Inbox me on Facebook.

  • John Davison

    I wondered on reading Simon’s Benny the Elephant Sands jumbo story if there is any chance this animal came from the elephant back safari operation way over in western Okavango. A herd of former USA circus eles are used there and some wild eles have “attached” themselves to that safari operation in similar fashion?

    • Simon Espley

      Hi John, this is a wild elephant – unlikely it’s one of the Abu concession elephants. But would that not be a wonderful story if true? 🙂

      • John Davison

        Yes for sure, Benny seems so unafraid of humans that previous human contact seemed so possible!

        The water for elephants issue is so complex. My father Ted Davison was the first warden in Hwange ( 1928 to 1961) where this whole matter of pumped water begun but there is no doubt in my mind that today’s wonderful elephant and other game sightings that so many guests enjoy particularly in the concession areas of Hwange would not be possible other than with borehole supported wildlife watering.

        • Simon Espley

          Agree about Hwange. This is a real dilemma. Perhaps we have entered the age where we have to intervene as they did in Hwange – because we have stuffed things up so royally elsewhere, and removed migration routes and alternative water/feed resources?

          • Chris Voets

            What are your thoughts on Kruger NP closing two-thirds of their boreholes? As a result, vegetation in those areas is being equally utilised to other regions, rather than being continually under pressure by year-round utilisation of the boreholes.

          • Simon Espley

            Good question Chris. I have a layman’s understanding of these things, so my thoughts are probably merely input to an interesting discussion. Kruger has an amazing team with a great track record – and they seem to have acknowledged past mistakes by removing those boreholes. Perhaps Kruger being fenced (although not entirely) is a factor that differentiates it from the area covered in my story above? The theory behind putting boreholes into this vast area is to get elephants utilising a larger area than they are currently doing. Because historical access to water and seasonal food has been cut off in many areas the elephants are gathering in larger numbers and staying for too long in areas such as Chobe River and at the lodge featured in my story. We have asked a few scientists to write for us about this aspect of wild area management, and hope to publish something about this when they do.

          • Graeme Pollock

            good reply Simon , the natural migratory route for elephant in KNP was originaly west -east , yet the fence runs north south cutting off natural migratory routes , most NPPA who include borehole water provision , rotate the boreholes to make the wildlife move , to ensure habitat degradation is minimized .

          • Simon Espley

            Thanks Graeme, makes sense.

  • Coco Sheen
  • Graeme Pollock

    We neeed to put this story into historic process and context.
    In 1994 the Government rearanged the Wildlife Managment Areas (WMA) into Controlled Hunting Areas and broke up the cartels of 4 companies that held most of the concession areas. The goal was to place the conservation managment of approx 17% of Botswana in the hands of qualified and vetted private companies . The tender process was openand transparent and was monitored by the Direcorate of econimic Crimes ( anti-coruption ).
    There were conditions that included no company or individual could own more than one concession , this was to ensure greater employment opportuinities . Think 30 companies with their own office and staff compliment versus what exists today where one company owns over 30 lodges and has one office in Maun and the head office in South Africa to where all income for Botswana properties is leaked to. One needs to ask how this was possible where government policy did not allow this and the subsequent lack of job creation ( this all forms part of the dilemma of rampant poaching and unemployment in rural areas ).
    Botswana’s key tourism areas revolve around high wildlife density areas of the Okavango and Chobe where there is permanent surface water , the eastern blocks were considered marginal waterless  areas with almost no permanent wildlife , serving only as a summer extended range. The successfull tender companies took what was an area devoid of wildlife and initiated wildlife managment programes that included anti poaching , water provision through expensive boreholes , social responsibility and employment , all on the back of income generated from hunting activities . These marginal areas did not and still do not have any photo tourism potential or opportuinities and this was researched and explored extensively by the concession owning companies . In 15 years these wastelands were turned into viable conservation areas and once where there where less than 10 elephants in a concession there became thousands , in turn taking away a lot of pressure off the over populated Okavango and Chobe areas.
    President Khama came into power and like the situation of state capture in South Africa , there was “conservation and Tourism Capture ” by a few well placed people who believed that by closing hunting they could take over the concessions , they however did not do their homework – all the viable areas in the Okavango and Chobe already had photo tourism partners so no new opportunities came from the ploy. Dereck Joubert in his motivation to President Khama promised to employ all people who lost their jobs with the closure of hunting , again he did not do his homework – there were over 2500 people affected by the closure excluding management positions. This lie was similar to the one where he was a pivitol role in closing down the Kalahari areas , once again he promised to replace hunting with tourism in 2007, 10 years later no lodges or employmnt opportuinities have replaced the closed hunting companies – poaching and extermination of the rare Kalahari lion has replaced hunting conservation . The land is set to return to pastoral and agriculture as the main land use – over 8 million hectares of key conservation area lost.
    In the meantime under the guidance of Joubert the Government announced the closure of hunting to be debated at the annual Tourism Pitso Convention , the key note speaker being President Khama , government had put on the agenda the closure of hunting – to their surprise the entire academic and tourism sectors voted against the closure and refutted the governments reasons for the closure – such as decreasing wildlife populations – there was research evidence that game numbers were increasing in hunting concessions but decreasing in National Parks – the Research and academic sectors unamously opposed the ban of hunting with scientific evidence.
    Hunting closed in 2013 and the companies had to withdraw taking with them their protection , managment  and water provision ( just like in Kenya when hunting closed the country lost over 80% of its `

    • Simon Espley

      Hi Graham. I have a few questions based on your notes above. Could you keep your reply specific to my questions?

      1. “subsequent lack of job creation”
      – you are suggesting that hunting operators employed more people than tourism does currently. Do you have stats to back that claim up – would make a great blog post.

      2. “These marginal areas did not and still do not have any photo tourism potential or opportuinities”
      – I have agreed to invest into a hybrid tourism / philanthropy proposal that plans to include boreholes, community empowerment and tourism lodges. Will you join us?

      3. ” just like in Kenya when hunting closed the country lost over 80% of its `wildlife”
      – how would you explain that both Tanzania and Mozambique have lost similar wildlife populations (more in Moz case) – and yet they have maintained their hunting activities? Put another way, why did hunting fail to protect Tan/Moz wildlife when you suggest that it would have protected Kenyan wildlife? Perhaps the primary reasons for wildlife loss across Africa are habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and poaching, and hunting is as powerless to prevent these forces as other land use practises? I discussed this situation with a PH in Niassa, which has seen complete collapse of elephant numbers despite hunters operating / controlling almost the entire area – he says that hunting is powerless in this regard. My point being that perhaps your straight line logic suits your passion for hunting but does not stand up to scrutiny?

      4. “Retaliation follows and more elephant Buffalo Lion Wild dogs hyena are killed as problem animals than probably were hunted under the scientific hunting quota system.”
      – agree totally. Perhaps you could channel your experience into finding an alternative solution for this area, other than hunting? Pointless to continue flogging a dead horse and continue going on and on about how unfair and unwise the Bots government decision is/was. Join us with your capital and experience in finding an alternative solution?

      Cheers,

      • Graeme Pollock

        Simon , there is no short answer to your questions so bear with me ,
        1.No I did not imply hunting creates more employment opportunities, it does create more jobs per bed but the converse of this is a smaller ecological damage footprint because of less staff and less infrastructure but more money per bed . Compare apples with apples .
        2. Since 1997 all the marginal areas invited all the major photo operators to visit the concessionaires and develop a lodge , in my area I hosted WS , KD, DD, Kwando and numerous smaller operators offering them free sub leases to develop destinations. All said they were not viable as densities of wildlife were to low to sustain a profitable operation. It takes approx. P2 million per annum to run a marginal area concession with basic camps. The lease fee excluding resource royalties are approx. P650 000.00 per annum . I am open to proposals and also have a local investor for the right project.
        3.To answer this truthfully I put myself at liable , but will answer. I had a Concession in Niassa D2 . The corruption and underhanded handling of the area made me withdraw in 2005 after 3years, for 3 years we did not harvest any elephant or lion as we were developing the areas wildlife , much to the anger of client we would not hunt under size or age elephant or lion , we had a long term plan , we were punished for this by the authorities and were put under pressure. Each concession runs extensive anti poaching units but you could not arrest for poaching only as illegal trespassing , poaching or illegal hunting by government officials was rampant and not controllable , the concession holders have no control over populations in Niassa., however the population of Lion and Elephant originally increased from 2000 under the hunters management and is well documented . From 2008 the decline set in as per the above reasons.
        In Tanzania , I have hunted in the east west and central areas . Are you aware of the corruption in concession allocations , in the time numbers declined there was a change in concession holders , companies that had long term management plans and were strict with quotas were kicked out and replaced by Muslim connected businesses men .When accompanying clients in 2009 in the western areas we came across burnt area with bush islands and on these we saw carcasses of elephant herds , and logging camps close by , the locals told us out side of the hunting season , trucks linked to Muslim owners came in and set up camp close to indigenous Forrest stands (teak etc.) the loggers would the poach for food and kill all elephants for ivory , the trucks would then remove the timber and ivoryby the truck load

      • Graeme Pollock

        As to your concluding remark that to continue flogging a dead horse is pointless , it not Simon , hunting was closed against the will of the people of Botswana and the wildlife sector , you can’t just accept this even if you oppose hunting , are you aware the closure was by way of a statutory instrument that only has a 12 month life span , to continue the ban only an act of parliament could do so and should have happened in 2015, to be legal , the ban is currently illegal and is politicaly enforced against the will of the people. This will change in May 2018 when a new President takes over. The current situation will change as those close to the existing President are not ensconced with the new President and a whole new dynamic will emerge , game farming will return , hunting in some form or another will return based on democratic principles and scientific guidance

        • Simon Espley

          Evening Graeme, thanks. Hopefully whatever happens after May 2018 will be on benefit to Botswana and her people.

          • Graeme Pollock

            Simon please read the following link which is a peer reviewed scientific and academic paper exposing the so called benefits of photo tourism and the illegal ban of conservation hunting in Botswana , I would appreciate you revealing what you learnt about this illegal ban as you have clearly traveled and been exposed to people in Botswana , its frightening to know how you and others remain complicity silent on the capture of the tourism industry in Botswana , how do you see this as any different to what is happening with the Gupta’s influence offer Zima ? : silence is as bad as support .

            http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03736245.2017.1299639?journalCode=rsag20

          • Simon Espley

            Hi Graeme. So here are my personal ground rules for further engagement: Stop with your constant accusations of conspiracies and your attempts to discredit and undermine. Right now your behaviour is as bad as the ARA’s you seem to despise. As an aside, we read and considered this article 2 years ago – and questioned the author, who is well known to us. Go well.

          • Graeme Pollock

            In other words there is no Gupta gate either ? All conspiracies ? I expected your lack of response as most of your writings are ARA based and don’t care a flying tomato about engaging anybody only about getting the truth out, you wont be the first or last to ban me for spoiling a good story with the truth . As to credibility its a peer reviewed published paper , you and any other ARA can try discredit or question it but as I have always maintained AG and NG are not peer reviewed scientific journals they are coffee table arm chair warrior misinformed option pieces hence their collapse and low credibility in academic circles .

          • Mike Sebastian

            Like I have said before, Graeme Pollock is a troll with too much time on his hands. He will keep the conversation going in circles. Just walk away.

          • Graeme Pollock

            Like I said you a funny guy and typical of the misinformed ARA , we produce peer reviewed science and you respond by calling us trolls or banning us , you are entitled to your misguided opinions and we fully understand you can’t cast seeds (of knowledge) on infertile soil , but a pathetic rebuttal , a troll with time on his hands , pure intellect and informative , I take the time to dispel the myths and BS spewed by ARA because its destructive to wildlife conservation and impacts on the great work carried out on the ground by committed hunting conservationists.

          • Graeme S

            You seem upset with the decision making process that occurred in Botswana to ban
            trophy-hunting. I personally don’t know the details of this but want to add another
            perspective concerning your comments about the ‘misinformed ARA.’

            The debate around the economics over eco-tourism vs hunting goes back and forth,
            but in my opinion the issue is ultimately a moral and an ethical one – what right do
            we as humans have to hunt wildlife for sport. I want to ask you to examine your
            conscience and ask yourself this question – do you really think animals were
            created for the purpose that we go out and kill them for fun/sport. I myself eat
            meat nor am i opposed to all forms of hunting, but i want to state that trophy-hunters
            attempt to justify what is morally and ethically unjustifiable.

          • Graeme Pollock

            Graeme S , when you move into the spiritual opinion of hunting it cannot be explained or justified , in the same way Christians and Muslims have their right to freedom of religion so we all have a right to a spiritual stand or opinion on issues , like religion no matter how much one party can argue facts fiction it will not change your religious beliefs , you have strong convictions so explaining that animals are animals and all deserve equal consideration , not lions and elephants above cows and sheep , or fish and insects in your home , or nematodes , parasites and bacteria , they are all Gods creation and man should surely not be entitled to prefer one over the other or sterilize their home from bugs mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies , is that not so ? : when a human separates the importance of one animal or class of animal over another they , in my opinion have a biased view of biodiversity , which may stem from either lack of understanding of the building blocks of the environment or they have a disneyfied perspective of all forms of animal life . The steps of enlightenment start with a love of specific animals dolphins , lions , panda bears etch , but the more one reads and does research one finds all forms of life are intertwined and no one species is more important than the other , so if we spray a pesticide to kill a mosquito or squash a bug , or use detergents or eat fish , chicken , beef we are actually in conflict with our morality , a elephant deserves no more right to life than a mosquito . So when man takes on the role of deciding what is more important without knowledge the chancers are emotional irrational decisions will be made , unintended consequences will follow. This is what happens when emotional arguments are brought to biodiversity conservation management . So yes I respect your right to , in my opinion , a naïve belief on animal consumption .

          • Graeme Pollock

            Here is the abstract from the academic study on the illegal ban of conservation hunting and the so called photo based tourism benefits

            Abstract

            This paper examines the effects of the safari hunting ban of 2014 on rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Northern Botswana using the social exchange theory. The paper used both primary and secondary data sources. Data were analysed qualitatively. Results indicate that the ban led to a reduction of tourism benefits to local communities such as: income, employment opportunities, social services such as funeral insurance, scholarships and income required to make provision of housing for the needy and elderly. After the hunting ban, communities were forced to shifts from hunting to photographic tourism. Reduced tourism benefits have led to the development of negative attitudes by rural residents towards wildlife conservation and the increase in incidents of poaching in Northern Botswana. The implications of hunting ban suggest that policy shifts that affect wildlife conservation and rural livelihoods need to be informed by socio-economic and ecological research. This participatory and scientific approach to decision-making has the potential to contribute sustainability of livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Botswana.

  • Graeme Pollock

    arggg once again Simon and his misleading journalism , hunting companies supplied over 100 boreholes and spent approx $100 000-00 per area on fuel pumping water to wildlife . excluding transport staff and vehicles to supply water , this supply also helped take the pressure off the over populated Chobe and Okavango where there is an ecological catastrophy unwrapping , those areas have been tendered out and no photo based companies tendered because they are not conservation companies but commercial profit driven companies – the conservation cost is to high and photo based tourism cannot generate the income and benefits that hunting can , if the areas where retendered and open to hunting companies there would be hundreds of companies tendering .

    • Simon Espley

      Greame, if you took the time to read my article you would note that your remarks are covered. Perhaps if you used your energy for positive discussion, instead of your usual negativity and anger-mongering? So tiring, just move on bud.

      • Graeme Pollock

        simon , I do read your articles hence my comments on specifics , my negativity as you stste is not negativity its saddness that comes from watching the ARA destroy massive conservation projects throughout africa based on misinformation .

        • Simon Espley

          I too am saddened by misinformation – which comes in equal doses from both pro-hunters as well as ARAs. Perhaps your passion would best serve conservation if you sought common ground and stopped hammering away with your usual rhetoric and attempts to discredit? There is seldom fertile discussion when you are constantly trying to insult those with different views. Move on Graeme, try to engage…

          • Mike Sebastian

            Walk away Simon, just walk away. Graeme Pollock is a known troll – he has divided the world into two types of people: a) those that agree totally with all forms of hunting. b) idiots.

          • Graeme Pollock

            Broad misinformed strokes , if you did your homework you would be aware I was oneof the outspoken agents of opposistion to canned lion killing and colour variants , I only support sustainable utilization where it does not compromise the conservation effort , so hardly a blind supporter of ALL hunting but hey why spoil a good story with facts ! As to engaging Simon as the chair of the Botswana Wildlife Managment association , I and my colleagues have always been open to discussions and views , this invitation was an open extension to yourself , Dereck Joubert and Mitchler , it has never been accepted .

          • Simon Espley

            Please provide evidence of your invitation to me to meet with BWMA.

          • Graeme Pollock

            Simon Simon Simon , please look back at your old articles where we have engaged you as well as the misleading article’s by Mitchler and Joubert . We have even published an open invitation as far back as 2013 in major newspapers. My door and Debbie Peaks is always open as are our plethora of scientific papers on hunting and research , our invitation is open to provide peer reviewed studies that show hunting is detrimental to any species, we will then lead the conservation effort to limit or ban hunting as we did with the Spotted hyena and sandgrouse season.

          • Simon Espley

            Add value Graeme, and perhaps you will build an audience. Sniping away and making fake accusations is just not going to achieve anything. And it’s just not dignified.

          • Chris Voets

            Graeme, very interesting that “the entire tourism industry” and hunters voted against the hunting ban, but Dereck (as the only one who WOULDN’T profit from either solution) voted FOR it ….. And by the way, he owns tourism lodges in Bots too, so I guess it’s not the “entire tourism industry”??
            Talking of GuptaGate, they’re also in it for the money, Graeme, did ypu notice?
            As for you turning to beef farming, please don’t come crying when the value of beef keeps falling as a result of the world turning towards a non-meat based diet. And before you jump to the obvious knee-jerk reaction – no, I’m neither a vegetarian (yet) nor a vegan … in fact I love a good steak!

          • Graeme Pollock

            Hi Chris in the spirit of engagement as suggested by Simon I will respond without sentiment . 🙂
            Dereck Joubert never once attended a country wide consultative convention organized by the Botswana government to discuss the closure of hunting . If he did he would have to engage with researchers and academic, self explanatorydont you think . . You say he would not profit , let me give quick history prior to the Jouberts taking up the marketing strategy of being anti hunting they were small bit players in the tourism landscape of Botswana , they saw this as a major marketing platform , even though in and around 2000 they were involved with the only hunting company to have been prosecuted by DWNP and expelled from the hunters assoc. Do you see the irony ? One of their major marketing strategies has been to play on the false information that since taking over Linyanti area which they say was devastated by hunters the game has returned under their presence , deliberately failing to say the Linyanti never had water so the game moved away but since the river has returned so has the game . As to the price of beef , this time last year weaner beef was R22.00 a kilogram , this month it peaked at R39.00 a kilogram , in June it was R30.00 a kg. Normally I would say something like “you sure do make educated comments ” but in keeping with Simons suggestion I will just refer you to farmers weekly magazine that print the weekly agricultural indicators 🙂 .

          • Graeme Pollock

            Chris , here is the abstract from an academic study undertaken in Botswana on the so called benefits of photo tourism after the illegal ban of conservation hunting in Botswana , this is what Dereck Joubert would have had to face if he attended any of the consultative workshops and conventions organized by the government to discuss the closure of hunting , maybe now you well understand why he avoided public debates , he would be exposed by academics and scientific studies . .

            Abstract

            This paper examines the effects of the safari hunting ban of 2014 on rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Northern Botswana using the social exchange theory. The paper used both primary and secondary data sources. Data were analysed qualitatively. Results indicate that the ban led to a reduction of tourism benefits to local communities such as: income, employment opportunities, social services such as funeral insurance, scholarships and income required to make provision of housing for the needy and elderly. After the hunting ban, communities were forced to shifts from hunting to photographic tourism. Reduced tourism benefits have led to the development of negative attitudes by rural residents towards wildlife conservation and the increase in incidents of poaching in Northern Botswana. The implications of hunting ban suggest that policy shifts that affect wildlife conservation and rural livelihoods need to be informed by socio-economic and ecological research. This participatory and scientific approach to decision-making has the potential to contribute sustainability of livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Botswana.

          • Graeme Pollock

            as to moving on , i have , I no longer have a vested interest in hunting conservation and now farm cattle , so I am free to provide an unbiased view based on 35 years in conservation , 10 of them with formal parks boards. As a founding member of FGASA and ex Chief Nature Conservator , and having conducted safaris in Mozambique , Botswana , South africa , Namibia and held guide /pH licenses and sat on extensive committees dealing with conservation issues ,presented papers to World Congresses on Tourism for the Environment and IUCN , I am confident my experience can now assist in dispelling the misinformation out there .

  • Graeme Pollock

    Simon cant find my post laying out the situation in botswana in a historic perspective to the problem of no water in the eastern blocks ? am I spoiling your story again with the truth ?, further more two more points need to be made : Lion and other species dont simply wander out of protected areas nilly willy , mostly this move is due to over population of the finite habitat . If elephant and lions leave the parks as you suggest above its to expand their ranges , in other words in a conservation context they are excess animals and their harvesting on a sustainable basis is not going to have a negative influence on the population , however these animals become problem animals and come into conflict with human settlements and DO negatively impact on rural communities and their view of wildlife , until there is direct tangible benefit to the people living with big dangerous game , people will see them as vermin to be destroyed on sight. Sadly conservation will always be commented on by lifestyle arm chair conservationists who visit the area for a short holiday and leave as experts , neither their livelyhood nor their future are woven into the issues on the ground , their disney perspective of wildlife resonates with the many similar influenced
    well meaning public to the detriment of conservation.

    • Mike Sebastian

      Thank goodness we have hunters to kill the wandering lions and elephants and mount the heads on a wall. That’s way better for conservation than the pesky photographic tourists who pay to just see the animals, and then like to discuss the issues at hand. A head on the wall is just so much better than a live animal. And how dare these ignorant tourists have an opinion! You know the world is in a bad place when ordinary people get to contribute to conservation chatter, along with all-knowing hunters. You must long for the good old days before social media, when hunters sat in a circle and patted each other on the back, assuring each other that killing is fun and the stuff of conservation heroes.

      • ANIMALLOVER

        Have you ever heard Dame Daphne Sheldrick talking about elephants? I guess no. She says elephants are very similar to “human” beings. They feel grief when other elephants die, they feel sadness and they feel joy. So how can you (as a “human” being) kill elephants when you know they will grieve about their loved ones killed by a poacher or a trophy hunter? “The evil starts where there is no empathy.”

        • Mike Sebastian

          Looks like you misinterpreted the intention of my words? Or maybe you only read my first sentence? Or maybe you mean to reply to Graeme Pollock the hunter. Either way, we are probably on the same side..

  • Mike Sebastian

    Simon please inbox me, I want to get involved.

    • Simon Espley

      Done

  • Jennifer Wathen

    The real problem is throughout all the problems on Earth is the ones making the decisions will not be here when our children have children so they don’t care they live in the now they don’t care about the van and they don’t care about the future and until people wake up we’re going to see our animals and species in humans keep dropping off because our government and everyone else involved committees council’s treasurer’s all of them keep things and by the way news reporters magazines and all that don’t always tell the truth either they have a black and white that they have to go by as well so to know the truth you have to see the truth you have to be there to see it and know it wake up start doing something about it don’t keep reporting to the internet the internet doesn’t care either get up and make a difference

  • 1desburman2

    Botswana is FLOODED with water, massive rain this year so this looks like a scam to find money – check the local rainfall in that area. That area also has huge underground water – all running from the Kavango – the farmers in Gobabis have boreholes pulling 6000 lt / min ex the kavango river

    • Simon Espley

      O wow, this is such a naive comment, so geographically ignorant and just so not helpful or constructive. Appreciate the engagement, but please try to apply yourself to facts. Thanks

      • 1desburman2

        Simon —– we have 15 boreholes running off the Okavango river producing over 15 000 lt per hour IN GOBABAIS and you have the same in BOTSWANA —- CHECK THE FACTS

        • Simon Espley

          Good for you. You do know that there is more to Botswana than the Okavango River? Also that the flood water you mention does not effect the area covered by the article. Also that seasonal ground water is covered by the article, and dries up very quickly. Your comments just don’t address the geographical area in question, or the issues at hand.

    • Graeme Pollock

      Well said , the elephants have followed the rains and are every where even in the semi desert areas of Ghanzi and the Hannahai Valley , there is water everywhere in abundance just asks farmers and villagers .

      • Simon Espley

        Of course seasonal water is attracting elephants – this is hardly news? But this has nothing to do with why boreholes are required during the dry season. This is covered in detail in my article.

  • Lee Walden

    We were in Zimbabwe in 2000 and spent some time at a camp called coincidentally “Elephant Sands” on the fringe of Hwange park. The pumps were running in Hwange then but even so an elephant felt the need to avail itself of the camp staff’s water supply. He was persuaded to leave before too much damage was done to the infrastructure and none to the elephant. About a year or so later we were at a camp just outside Kruger park and the head ranger there had in the past been a ranger in Hwange back when they would do 2 week patrols on horseback. He admitted that then it had been determined that the carrying capacity of Hwange was something like 18,000 elephants and the numbers were controlled by culling. He said he wasn’t proud of it but he had culled over 1,000 elephants. He said that since that time there had been no efforts made to control the population and currently (as of 2001) there were something like 60,000 elephants leading to great habitat destruction and general deterioration of the health of the elephants. Unfortunately many swords have 2 edges.

    • Simon Espley

      Interesting feedback, thanks. Perhaps this gathering of elephants in some areas speaks to the broader message in my article – that elephants are being forced to gather where they can find water and feed – to the detriment of local ecosystems and wildlife.

  • Graeme Pollock

    In the absence of a reply to my request to tell the truth behind the illegal closure of hunting in Botswana and the state of capture of the tourism industry and the Jouberts role please see link from local newspaper.

    Sunday Standard/ The Telegraph

  • Graeme Pollock

    Please read link to gain background on the truth behind issues in Botswana
    https://m.facebook.com/SundayStandardBW/?__tn__=C-R