Botswana’s hunting ban: Bushmen starve, trophy hunters carry on

March 31, 2014

Bushmen hunting with spear, for food. ’You talk to him and look into his eyes. And then he knows he must give you his strength so your children can live.’ © Philippe Clotuche/Survival

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Botswana’s President Khama has banned all hunting nationwide, even for Bushmen who hunt to feed their families – but an exception is being made for trophy hunters paying up to $8,000 to hunt giraffes and zebras.

Wealthy tourists are being invited to travel to Botswana to hunt big game on private ranches that have been exempted from the ban. But Bushmen from Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve, who have hunted with spears, bows and arrows for millennia, are being arrested, beaten and jailed for subsistence hunting.

The ban openly flouts Botswana’s landmark high court ruling in 2006, which upheld the Bushmen’s right to hunt on their ancestral land in the reserve.
In February President Khama was an honoured guest at a global anti-poaching conference in London, alongside Prince Charles and Prince William. The initiative resulted in the launch of Prince William’s United for Wildlife, drawing together seven big conservation organizations, including US-based Conservation International (CI). President Khama is a CI board member.

Bushmen put on staged 'hunts' for tourists, but in reality have now been banned from hunting. © Botswana Tourism/

Although some communities affected by the 2014 ban have been offered food parcels, the reserve’s Bushmen have been left to starve, without any assistance from the government. Perversely, the Botswana Tourism Organization uses images of hunting Bushmen to attract tourists, especially big game hunters. Survival has called for a boycott of tourism to Botswana.

The depth of meaning that hunting has for tribal peoples like the Bushmen was explained by Bushman leader Roy Sesana: ‘I grew up as a hunter. All our boys and men were hunters. Hunting is going and talking to the animals. You don’t steal. You go and ask. You set a trap or go with bow and spear. It can take days. You track the antelope. He knows you are there, he knows he has to give you strength. But he runs and you have to run. As you run, you become like him. It can last hours and exhaust you both. You talk to him and look into his eyes. And then he knows he must give you his strength so your children can live’.

Hunting for food is now banned in Botswana, but trophy hunting by wealthy foreigners is allowed. © Public Domain

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry recently exposed how the conservation movement was founded by proponents of eugenics and other extreme-right theories; and that the first national parks were established on the lands of Indigenous peoples after their eviction.

Stephen Corry said today, ‘Banning hunting in order to feed your family, but allowing the wealthy to hunt for trophies, plays to a lobby still rooted in racist beliefs about tribal peoples’ inferiority. The national park movement entailed the enforced eviction, often the complete destruction, of the tribes who lived off the land. Satellite imagery now proves that many tribal peoples are the world’s best conservationists, yet they’re still being destroyed. It’s not ‘conservation’; it’s just an old colonial crime, and it’s time the responsible organizations opposed it. Instead, they hide behind hollow policies, while continuing to support governments guilty of such inhuman behaviour.’

Answer: this is NOT an April Fool