ISSUES AND OPTIONS REPORT FOR REVIEW OF THE CHOBE NATIONAL PARK MANAGEMENT PLAN
The Chobe National park, located in the northern part of Botswana and within the Chobe District covering an area of about 10 590km2 is arguably one of the countryâ€™s premier conservation areas. The park was created with the aim of protecting wildlife from over hunting and to cater for the visitors. Uncontrolled hunting by settler communities from Northern and Southern Rhodesia threatened the viability of a large number of mammals and unique species such as the Chobe bushbuck and puku thereby leading to the establishment of the park.
From humble beginnings of complete preservation and game viewing through to the period of assertive management and research and growing tourism numbers, the park has remained relatively a hands-off affair with little adaptive management being practiced. The park, which is divided into four main focal zones comprising of the Chobe Riverfront, the Savuti Marsh; the Linyanti swamps and the dry lands of Nogatshaa, has remained a national and international focal point. There is little infrastructure in the park in terms of development for tourism adventures. The park is managed through a series of camps dotted throughout the park which provide guidance to tourists, wildlife management as well as law enforcement in the park.
In an effort to effectively manage wildlife resources in the park, government has, since 1988 developed a series of management plans which unfortunately have never been put to good use, thus leaving park development without a policy guiding document for management and development. It is against this background that the plan is being reviewed to bring it in line with current national and international best practices.
The review of the plan is currently being carried out within the framework of the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act of 1992 and the subsiding regulations, the Game Reserves regulations of 2000. The management objectives are guided by the visions of the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism and that of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks as well as the national Vision 2016. Other legal and policy documents guide the development of the plan.
The Chobe National Park is entirely on state land and is surrounded by other conservation areas life Forest Reserves, Wildlife Management areas and settlements thereby placing a lot of pressure on the operations of the park as well as increased human-wildlife conflicts. Forest Reserves are also secondarily used for tourism activities by the tourism operators that fail to get access to the Chobe National Park.