Released last Friday, the Department's Botswana Wildlife Statistics Report 2008 is the second of its type and represents the most comprehensive quantitative and qualitative analysis of the local wildlife sector.
According to the Report, 110 impala, 101 elephants, 86 kudu were among various other species of wildlife poached during the four years covered by researchers, representing an 11 percent increase over the animals poached between 1999 and 2003.
In comparison, the first Wildlife Statistics Report released in 2005, indicated 94 elephants, 87 kudu and 32 impala were poached, suggesting that both commercial and subsistence poachers have stepped up their activities.
In particular, the high number of elephants snared, mainly for their tusks, indicates the high presence of commercial poachers who kill for profit, targeting the illegal ivory trade prevalent in Asia. The numbers of elephants poached rose from 10 in 2004 to 26 in 2008, raising concern that rising elephant populations and their pressuring effect on anti-poaching patrols, could be emboldening poachers. At the last count in 2008, Botswana boasted more than 200,000 elephants.
Although department officials were unavailable for comment yesterday, observers said statistics for kudu and impala killings were suggestive of subsistence poachers who largely kill "for the pot" or for the purposes of consumption.
The latest Report indicates that 2006 was a particularly bloody year for wildlife with 151 animals poached, including 33 impala, 25 ostriches, 18 elephants and 14 kudu. "On a general basis, poaching levels increased over this period (2004 - 2008), with slight decreases observed in 2007 and 2008. The highest poaching incidents were recorded in 2006," reads the Report, released by Statistics Botswana.
The Report shows that the other species that were poached in relatively higher numbers were gemsbok and lion.
While seven lions were poached between 1999 and 2003, 41 were killed between 2004 and 2008, representing both an intensification of snaring and higher reportage due to increased anti-poaching patrols.
According to the latest evidence, the Central District is a poaching hotspot consistently leading in reported incidents between 2004 and 2008, followed by Ngamiland and Chobe. "The species most involved were kudu and impala in Central while for Ngamiland it was elephant and buffalo," the Report reads.
Wildlife officials, commenting in the Report, said anti-poaching operations were continuing. "National concern over the ecological, social and economical effects of poaching in Botswana saw the formation of government departments concerned with wildlife management such as the Anti Poaching Unit of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism. "The department has created a joint operation committee with the Botswana Defence Force to coordinate anti poaching activities country wide."
The department officials said honorary wildlife officers help in the enforcement of wildlife conservation by monitoring illegal activities in their areas. "These are local villagers who live adjacent to wildlife areas. They are therefore always on the look out for any wrong doing against wildlife and constantly report to the DWNP," said the officials quoted in the Report.
Meanwhile, the Government Statistician, Anna Majelantle explained that Wildlife Statistics Reports took time to produce, given the considerable data and effort involved to compute data.
"We collect information through the ministry and department and they do that through various wildlife routes, sources and agencies. Sometimes the information will come from there to us and we send it back to them for correction. "The process leading towards the production of reports is therefore long," she said.