The parliament of Botswana has approved a request by the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism for P41 million in emergency funding to cover the acquisition of three used helicopters, nine aviation fuel tankers and radio and communication equipment for use by game rangers involved in anti-poaching operations.
In submissions contained in the weekly parliamentary ‘Financial Paper’, Finance and Economic Development minister Kenneth Matambo said the supplementary budget would also cover the employment of new staff and repairs to more than 150 off-road patrol vehicles among other needs.
“The ministry (of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism) has requested P41 600 000 from the Development Fund under the Sustainable Environment Programme to be used for the procurement of three (3) used helicopters, aviation fuel bowsers (9) and radio communication equipment. Consequently, the ministry budget for 2017-2018 needs to be increased by P41 600 000, from P135 075 175 to P176 675 175,” Matambo said.
The budget will also fund the employment of 104 new members of staff and camping equipment to help the anti-poaching units to cope with new elephant movements into areas that were previously outside their rangeland.
In his application for a supplementary budget, Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism minister Tshekedi Khama said the ongoing influx of elephants into Botswana from neighbouring countries has created manpower and operational problems which Botswana cannot not handle on her own.
“The world is busy praising us for having a large number of elephants, but they are not assisting us in dealing with the problems brought by the elephants. At some point, we will have to ask the world to assist us”, Khama said.
The application was approved by a majority vote, although some parliamentarians opposed it saying the government should dedicate resources to mitigating the human-elephant conflict than conserving elephants.
Recently, elephant movements, which were previously limited to the north and north-east, have been observed in districts further south. These include the Southern, Ghanzi, Kgatleng, Kweneng and Kgalagadi districts.
Last year Botswana received 14 Bat Hawk light surveillance aircraft for airborne anti-poaching patrols to protect elephants and other endangered animal species in four major game reserves in the central and northern parts of the countries. These aircraft, built by Micro Aviation of Nelspruit in South Africa, are operated by the Botswana Defence Force, Botswana Police Service and Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Six of the Bat Hawks were to be armed with FN Minimi 5.56 mm light machineguns