Botswana Is Lifting Ban On Elephant Trophy Hunting
Lebalang Ramatokwane surveys a jagged hole in the concrete wall surrounding his half-built guesthouse on the outskirts of Kasane, a small tourist town in the far north of Botswana. A few days earlier, an elephant had knocked down part of the wall in two places, and now he's wondering whether he should beef up security before paying customers start to arrive. The thousands of elephants that roam freely around Kasane regularly destroy farmers' crops and pose a real threat to people, he says.
Botswana is home to some 130,000 elephants. For years, trophy hunters from the U.S. and Europe came to Botswana to hunt large male elephants, paying tens of thousands of dollars to head out into the bush with a professional hunter and send a tusked trophy home to mount on their wall. But in 2014, Botswana's government, then led by former President Ian Khama, temporarily banned trophy hunting, citing declining wildlife numbers.
People working in the hunting industry lost their jobs, and without the threat of hunting, wildlife officials say elephants have expanded their territory and increasingly wander around human settlements. That has led to an uptick in incidents of human-elephant conflict. Between August 2018 and 2019, 17 people were killed by elephants across Botswana, according to the government.
In May, the government, now headed by Khama's political rival President Mokgweetsi Masisi, announced it would lift the hunting moratorium and issue "fewer than 400" licenses for elephant hunts each year. Officials say it's what the people want. They say it will control herd numbers, reduce human-elephant conflict and create jobs in areas where opportunities are scarce.
Critics called the move unethical, particularly as African savanna elephant numbers in general have been declining because of poaching.