Gaborone — Government is indirectly subsidising and financing Botswana's elephant population and inadvertently the harm and damage caused by the species, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has said.
Briefing the media on Friday, President Masisi said elephants damaged food produced in the fields and therefore undermined government investment in the form of heavy agricultural subsidies.
He pointed out that Botswana's elephant population was estimated at 130 000 against the 2011 Elephant Management Survey having estimated the country's carrying capacity at 54 000.
With more than 70 per cent of the elephant population outside designated parks and game reserves, the President said human beings would always be the losers, adding that there was no doubt that elephants destroyed fields, crops and undermined human economic activities.
"Seventy per cent is a lot of elephants. It translates into 80 000 elephants that are outside (designated areas) and the closest they got to human settlement was in Phakalane, one was eliminated there," he said.
Explaining that there was never a hunting ban but a suspension extended every year, President Masisi said government took the decision to consult the nation on the matter, so that solutions could be owned by all.
During the consultation process, he said, people expressed the importance they attached to elephants because Batswana valued their flora and fauna.
"It bamboozles me when people sit in the comfort of where they come from and lecture us about the management of species they don't have. They want to admire from a distance and in their admiration of those species, they forget that we too, the people of Botswana, are a species, they talk as if we are trees and the grass that elephants eat," he said.
On other issues, President Masisi said the media formed an integral part of the country's democracy and pledged to continue engaging them.
He said government never imposed an advertising ban on private media, but only applied a belt tightening measure.
The belt, he said, was now loosening with the improvement of the economy.
To further strengthen relations with the media, President Masisi promised to include the private press on his international trips in the coming financial year.
Source : BOPA