4 suspected rhino poachers have been killed in a cross border skirmish at Sedudu island on the Chobe late at night on the 5th of August – almost as a direct consequence of what happens in the middle of a tourism hotspot when there are no tourists!
Rhino poachers have wiped out most of the Okavango black rhino population in the last 2 years, resulting in much fewer than 20 animals remaining, making the population functionally extinct. Now the poachers, typically coming in from Zambia and being assisted by Namibians, continue to target the remaining white rhinos with reports of them having just killed 2 more DEHORNED white rhinos, also in the Okavango, in the last week. So now with this latest incident in an ongoing war against rhino poaching we see reports of ‘4 fishermen’ having been killed, 3 Namibians and one Zambian.
Fishermen or rhino poachers you ask? What is going on?
Well if you read the countless stories that have been published by Namibian press and social media, the stories almost all follow the same narrative – harmless fishermen have been killed. But in Botswana, in the government release they call them alleged rhino poachers. So who to believe?
Here is a link to how the story has been reported over the last few days –>> https://bit.ly/36hdkbq
This kind of journalism making Botswana look like the enemy, playing on a humans rights abuse narrative, without first allowing them to give their version of events is not only totally irresponsible but very dangerous and causes tension in an area that has quite a history. Sedudu Island is historically a disputed piece of land on the border that almost caused a war between Botswana and Namibia. The island was eventually awarded to Botswana by the International Court of Justice following years of dispute between the two countries. Some Namibians still refer to it as Kasikiki Island but the fact is it now belongs to Botswana and is pretty much the centre of their multimillion dollar tourism industry outside of Kasane. An area that has seen Namibia also benefit because of Botswana’s great work in protecting their resource.
Now after this irresponsible reporting we have Botswana’s press release at least —> https://bit.ly/3leh0RJ
Here are the words…
“PRESS RELEASE ANTI POACHING OPERATION INCIDENT
In its mission of defending Botswana’s Territorial Integrity, Sovereignty and National Interests, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) informs the public about an incident between members of the BDF and poachers which resulted in four (4) poachers being killed. The incident which happened on 5 November 2020 at around 2300 hours in Sedudu area (Southern Channel of Chobe River), involved contact with a syndicate of poachers believed to be part of a network responsible for cross border organised poaching.
The matter has been handed over to relevant investigating agencies. As previously stated, there is an alarming surge of organised poaching for rhinoceros and elephants especially in the Western part of the Country (Okavango Delta and in the Chobe National Park).
Tebo Kacho Dikole
For/COMMANDER, BOTSWANA DEFENCE FORCE HEADQUARTERS
Whoever you believe, the fact is that people are dead and it is fortunately not the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) troop(s) this time. While stories of pity go viral for these ‘poor fishermen’ should we be taking their side or should we commending the BDF for their fantastic work taking out rhino poachers? To me, this work is not only commendable but is another key moment in Botswana’s no nonsense policy when it comes to protecting the country and its resources. Some argue why kill humans to protect rhinos? The truth is, you kill the rhinos, you kill people’s livelihoods too and you kill the country – wildlife is a key resource to the survival of many African countries and if the white rhinos die out too, then there will be a lot of people worse off.
And if you don’t buy the story of why should we kill these poachers, go and look at how many innocent rangers who get killed annually around Africa protecting wildlife. They have to be there otherwise the wildlife will disappear very quickly in most places. So should these anti-poaching units be allowed to be shot and not shoot back? Even if they shot first, can I blame them at 11pm at night when you are hot on the heels of a rhino poacher?
What are these alleged fishermen doing ‘fishing’ on the wrong side of the river late at night? The answer it simple – they are not fishermen, its a cover, they are continually there doing illegal activities and are fully aware of the risks involved – not just from the BDF but from hippos and crocodiles. Their movements are well known and word on the street is that the tracks of the poachers who killed the 2 dehorned rhinos led to this area but this info remains unconfirmed. The poachers in this area are part of massive crime syndicates and are sadly usually the ones low down on the hierarchy. They are dispensable. It is sad when they get shot but when it comes to a poacher vs an APU/ ranger I will choose the poacher to die every time as we have lost far too many good people protecting wildlife on this continent.
Well done to the BDF and Botswana government – your committed work to protecting your country and its resources remains commendable – it’s not always easy and decisions can be tough, but your challenging work here gets full support from most of us and those who put their lives on the line are heroes!