Gaborone — Botswana is committed to working with the international community to combat wildlife crime by providing leadership to the Illegal Wildlife Trade global negotiations that emphasises the need for wildlife crime to be treated as a serious crime in line with the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, says President Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
Celebrating the success story of Kalahari Conservation Society (KCS) and 35 years of its existence at a gala dinner on Novembber 3, President Khama, who is also the patron of the organisation, raised concern over the recent upsurge in the illegal off-take of elephants and rhinos and other species stating that the number of elephants poached remained high.
He said Botswana's tourism was heavily reliant on wildlife and wildlife crime had the potential to undermine its economy.
"The future of the environment and the planet we live on is in our hands, we do not have any divine right to determine which animal or plant species must survive. We must avoid looking at our biodiversity purely in terms of monetary value. For me the commonly used phrase by other people in conservation that "if it pays then it stays," he added.
President Khama also stated that wildlife crime had become complex to the extent that some of the proceeds from poaching excursions find their way into money laundering schemes, organised crime and even financing terrorism.
He therefore, he reiterated that it was an honour to have worked with an organisation that had lived up to its founding principles and yet continued to be relevant in the present day.
The President further said KCS was the longest running environmental non-governmental organisation in Botswana and that alone worth celebrating because the organisation owed its success story to its founding principles which were, the need to conserve Botswana's wildlife and eco-systems they depend on for the prosperity of all citizens.
He thanked all those who pioneered the society as their efforts had contributed to the country's conservation successes.
President Khama paid homage to Dr Gaositwe Chiepe for her continued efforts towards the conservation drive, Mr Neo Moroka, the board chairperson as well as KCS chief executive officer and Mr Neil Fitt for their 'sterling efforts' in ensuring that the organisation stayed the course and achieved objectives set in this regard.
"For me this is the crop of people who understood the need for the country to protect its natural resource base and my dream is to see, particularly the new generation, take up the challenge and become champions of our environment," he added.
In is welcome remarks, Mr Moroka explained that KCS was formed to fight among others poaching.
Mr Moroka said as time goes on, the poaching increased and became complex because poachers formed syndicates and poaching became a commercial business across the borders.
He said government and stakeholders had to come with interventions to address these problem hence the formation of KCS in 1980s adding that Botswana had a success story to tell in the protection and preservation of its wildlife.
Again, he said government received an overwhelming support from various stakeholders saying Botswana's success story was based on sound leadership coupled with good policies and programmes.
"Every resident of this country must make sure that our natural resources are used wisely to benefit our future generation," Mr Moroka said.
Source : BOPA