Botswana Defence Force spokesman Major Bernard Regalase maintains that anti-poaching operations that members of the BDF have been engaged in have observed their primary duty to arrest suspected poachers and to return fire only in self-defence.
Botswana and South Africa are two southern African countries in which law enforcement agencies are fighting both commercial poaching and poaching for the pot. However, unlike South Africa, Botswana is yet to prosecute a commercial poacher, while many Batswana who hunt for the pot are routinely in and out jail.
A South African court recently convicted a “leading figure” in international rhino poaching and sentenced him to 40 years imprisonment. Botswana’s prosecution record is poor despite several law enforcement agencies being involved in anti-poaching operations. They include the intelligence unit of the Department of Wildlife, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security and BDF units. Yet Botswana has yet to nail and successfully crack organised commercial poaching syndicates.
Instead, men on the ground bear the fatal brunt of BDF firepower, leaving out the sponsors of commercial poaching who send them. A source who requested anonymity says commercial poaching in the Chobe National Park is mainly sponsored by big names in tourism and on Government Enclave. The source says at several tourist facilities, clients are served game meat obtained through poaching while some animals are captured live and kept on private farms.
Many tourist outfits actually provide counter intelligence to commercial poachers to facilitate their work on the ground, informing them of planned operations as insiders, sources say. However, anti-poaching operations that do not involve tourism businesses are generally more successful.