Botswana: Elephant Sculpture at Airport

Standing majestically on rocks and grass at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) terminal, is a magnificent aesthetic piece which no eye can miss. It is a giant structure symbolic of Botswana's pride; the big five.

The elephant sculpture was designed purely of elephant ivory tusks weighing 2.7 tonnes.

Its inviting natural colours of cream, silky brown, and feathery gold appearance, presents a somewhat thrilling surreal experience.

This is an elephant sculpture made from ivory collected from elephants which died from natural causes. "It is intended to raise our collective consciousness about the plight facing the African elephant today," said President.

"The placement of the sculpture here at SSKIA is highly symbolic as it represents the international dimension or magnitude of illegal ivory trade," he said, adding that it was estimated that of the 600 000 elephants left on the African continent, Botswana was home to one third of them.

"The magnificent animal is the target of unscrupulous individuals who seek to systematically strip away our natural heritage in the selfish pursuit driven by greed," he said.

President Khama noted that the unveiling of the sculpture was a part of conservation efforts made to avert illegal trading of ivory. "In 2014, the government of Botswana along with Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania launched the African Protection Initiative (EPI) which proposes a number of actions including removal of elephant ivory from economic use until the elephant's survival is no longer threatened by illegal trade underlining the need for closure of domestic ivory markets," he said.

President Khama said the sculpture served as a reminder to all who pass through SSKIA that conservation of the elephant was a collective responsibility. "One live elephant is worth so much more than all the pieces of art made from ivory gathering dust in homes far removed from the African plains," he said.

The Minister of Wildlife and Tourism, Mr Tshekedi Khama, said despite challenges, the ministry continued to work hard to tackle illegal ivory trade and killing of elephants.

Mr Khama noted that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) had recorded that between 2013 and 2014, about 20 000 elephants were poached in Africa while in Botswana only 38 elephants were killed by poachers.

He said efforts were paying up as the numbers were reduced. The minister said Botswana had received a donation of 800 000 Euros from the Netherlands that would be used in the forensics aspect of poaching. Mr Khama added that P17 million was recently received from the Chinese government which would go towards anti-poaching of endangered species.

For his part, National Museums and Monuments director, Mr Gaogakwe Phorano, said they had noticed that world travellers had reached over one billion since 2012 while world heritage sites had reached 1000 since 2014. Mr Phorano said the museum had decided to position itself so that the tourism sector could continue to benefit profitably.

He said 40 per cent of tourism was motivated by cultural tourism.

"We have seen how we can develop culture tourism using areas of creative arts, design, architecture, and traditional cuisine," he noted. The director said the next major project in the pipeline was the 'Diamond Pavilion.' Mr Phorano who was the project manager, appreciated all who were involved.