Wildlife rangers in Botswana are likely to be armed after the next session of Parliament, which is expected to pass a revised wildlife bill into law.
Speaking in an interview this week, Capello Senatsu, director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, explained that if all goes according to plan, the revised law will be admired for improving working conditions in his department.
“The revised law is not just about rearmament but about reorganizing the entire department. The current law talks to the supplier and not the organization, so the new law will talk about organization and within the law there will be a provision allowing guards to arm.”
Senatsu further explained that the law would include capacity and staff allowances and put guards on an equal footing in terms of staff welfare with other security agencies.
“You’ll appreciate that because of our operations we are often referred to as paramilitaries and so on, but we’re not and we’re not even moving in that direction, only Wildlife Rangers operations make them think that way.”
He was actually explaining why his guards were not armed, unlike the anti-poaching units of the Botswana Defense Force (BDF).
“We need to put it into context, if you talk about the Okavango Delta and the rhinoceros, our rearmament probably means nothing to the situation because the Naval Defense Force is responsible for the delta,” Senatsu added.
The Bahrain Defense Force conducts the policy of the Red Zone including the Okavango Delta in terms of wildlife protection while the Wildlife Rangers take care of the protected areas for less threatened wildlife including the Galagadi and the Central Region.
“Wherever there are cases of cross-border armed confrontations, although they are rare in our areas of operation, they (the hunters) will find us ready. When our agents are armed, the hunters can also deter,” Senatsu noted.
Senatsu could not clearly explain the need to rearm his guards now. He appears to have been more interested in explaining about rhinos and the BDF than in direct questions about re-arming wildlife rangers.
In 2018, the department was disarmed and according to Senyatsu it was because the law prohibited them from carrying the type of firearms they were using at the time.
International organizations and local politicians have blamed the increasing number of poaching incidents, especially in the delta, on disarming the rangers.
“This is a political tactic. Disarming wildlife officers has nothing to do with rhino poaching because in the first place, the Maritime Defense Force is solely responsible for combating poaching in the delta and has been the case since 2015. Unfortunately, the questions being asked are about changes brought about by the new system versus the old system Senatsu explained that the system, as you know, politics is taking a prominent place.
However, he added that in the meantime, a call center bringing all the security agents responsible for wildlife protection will be operational soon and will include BDF, DIS (Directorate of Intelligence and Security), wildlife and police and that the new law will hopefully. The level of working conditions of these activists in society.