Most of the time, when we our exploring Botswana, we find ourselves getting immersed in the culture. Today, however, we found ourselves diving into the politics, as the 2019 Global Gateway group happened to be in Botswana during the controversial lift of the ban on elephant hunting. This decision has caught the attention of the entire world, and many people from the western world and back home have criticized the decision to kill what they see as beautiful and majestic creatures. Our Global Gateway group decided to dig further into this situation, so by teaming up with Professor Lisa Naughton of the Department of Geography, we set out to interview the people of urban Gaborone and rural Kanye in order to gather an insight as to the views and values people have of the wildlife here.
We have already had the opportunity to observe these beautiful creatures at game reserve in South Africa, so it was easy to see why people from back home would be upset about lifting the ban. What we didn’t consider, however, was what life was like living with these animals. When I interviewed a person from Kanye, they told me numerous stories that they saw on the news and heard from neighbors about the wildlife, specifically elephants, trampling through farms and cattle posts, eating crops, and in some cases, killing people. It was because of these stories that he told me that he supported decision to lift the ban, and it was general consensus from everyone else that the threat of their security played a big role into the decision.
The interview was not just about the elephant controversy though. In fact, the majority of the interview was spent asking people how they felt about wildlife in general, telling stories of times that the wildlife had made them happy, sad, afraid, and angry. What I learned from my interviews was that these people did not hate the wildlife: many of them praised the animals and considered them apart of Botswana’s national treasure. They were sad and angry when they heard stories of poaching, but they were also sad and angry when the also learned that the wildlife took lives too. If it wasn’t for the threat of their safety, I believe they would’ve kept the ban in place.
Overall, we saw this exercise as an eye-opening experience. We were able to better understand people’s values and see these amazing creatures through a new perspective. In the end, whether or not we agree with the decision, we all at least understand why it was made.