Okavango poaching in spotlight

US sets sights on the river basin

31 January 2018 | Environment

A legislator in the US has introduced a bill that is aimed at promoting sustainable development and combatting poaching in the Okavango River Basin, which also falls in Namibia.

Jeff Fortenberry, who is a party member of US President Donald Trump, presented the Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals (DELTA) Act.

The Okavango River Basin supports more than one million people in Angola, Botswana and Namibia and is home to several threatened wildlife species, including the largest remaining African elephant population in the world.

“This transnational conservation initiative marks a new approach to protecting majestic species such as the African elephant, and rhinoceros, while creating dynamic new benefits for the surrounding countries and indigenous people,” Fortenberry said on the bill.

“Through innovation, creativity, and conservation, we can save and enhance one of the most beautiful and delicate ecosystems in the world.”

The DELTA Act has five main goals that it aims to complete in order to foster economic development in the three southern African countries and the Okavango River Basin area.

These are to encourage federal agencies to work in conjunction with the governments of Angola, Botswana and Namibia to create improved natural resource management and wildlife conservation.

It also aims to add protection to the migration routes of elephants and other endangered species that live around the river basin.

Furthermore, it wants to fight poaching and trafficking of wildlife in the area and to assist with human health and other development needs of the local communities around the river basin.

The bill says it wants to prioritise wildlife trafficking and anti-poaching programmes in the basin to protect threatened species and prevent a critical source of criminal and terror financing.

The DELTA Act states combating poaching and trafficking is also important because these activities can have detrimental effects on the local government, due to the potential of causing instability in the region.

The bill also states “it is in the strategic interest of the United States to… advance conservation efforts and promote economic growth and stability in the greater Okavango River Basin.”

The bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives and has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The Okavango River Basin covers a hydrological active area of approximately 323 192 square kilometres shared by three countries in southern Africa: Angola, Namibia and Botswana. The Okavango River is the fourth longest river system in southern Africa. As well as the water resources, people living in the basin derive numerous natural resources from the basin ecosystem.