By Gothataone Moeng [admin note, Part 1 can be found here.\
With experts projecting a decline in diamond mining and sales over the next decade, Botswana's 'new gem' is the eco-tourism sector which made P8 billion last year. But the sector is grappling with a threat that won't go away - poachers armed to the teeth. In this second of a two-part interview, Staff Writer GOTHATAONE MOENG reports on the journey with World Wildlife Fund senior programme officer for African Species Conservation Matthew Lewis about how communities can derive maximum benefits from the wildlife on their land and what the recent ban on trophy hunting means for communities in tourist areas. Lewis was in Botswana as a guest of the American Embassy where he spoke about the economic value of wildlife conservation.
MMEGI: You have talked in your presentations about how in Namibia you have been able to put value on wildlife; to gauge whether it has positive or negative value. Can you please explain how you did that?
LEWIS: That's another element of CBNRM that for it to be fully successful and for communities to realise its full benefits, they must be allowed to obtain the maximum economic value of the species they are committing to protect. So animals have different levels of value, but the ones that we can really assign hard monetary value to are things like meat so we know communities can derive a certain amount of value from the meat. And then there is the value potentially from the trophy hunting of those animals. Another layer of value comes in from tourism. So when you add all those values in monetary terms, you get a figure that you can assign to an animal. With an elephant, for instance, you can say this elephant is worth this amount of money to the community, and that is a very positive incentive to the community to keep that elephant on their land. The inverse of that is that elephants cause a lot of damage to crops and buildings, and that is a negative financial value.
Then we add in predators which not only cause a negative impact to the community but also eat the species that provide meat and other benefits. So that is a double negative value; trying to recoup the positive value that you get from potentially hunting and tourism. It costs a lot of money to offset those big losses. Usually it's really hard to do that. That's why we need to think outside the box in encouraging communities to keep those species around. One of the really unique methods we have been working on in Namibia, which I think holds a lot of potential, is working with a lodge, say, when people go on a game drive in a communal area, the operator of the game drive will report back for how many lions they have seen that day and the tourists would pay a premium, a bonus for those animals, and the community would receive that in the form of money directly, and they would say today the tourists saw five lions and we received a cash bonus. So they would associate lions with cash, and that is one system we have been trying to launch and get off the ground on a pilot scale in Namibia where you really increase the value of the species, depending on what the tourists are willing to pay. One standard rate if they go on a boat cruise or game drive, but paying a bonus if they see some of the animals that have a large negative value. More....