It always breaks our hearts to report news like this…but sadly, it seems to be true. Botswana has announced, to the frustration and confusion of conservationists, that it is considering “lifting a ban on hunting elephants and turning culled beasts into meat.”1
Home to the world’s largest elephant population,2 Botswana has around 130,000 elephants and has long been thought of as a safe haven for the species amid the poaching crisis in Africa.
When President Mokgweetsi Masisi came to power last year, he ordered a committee to review the 2014 ban on hunting that had been introduced by his predecessor, Ian Khama. That recommendation was given to Masisi late on Thursday and said in part that hunting would “boost tourism while managing the national elephant population, and called for regular but limited elephant culling then suggested that meat be canned for pet food.”1 (Mr. Masisi, it seems, is at odds with his predecessor who was a champion of conservation and has “publicly criticized Mr. Masisi for disarming wildlife rangers last year after conservationists said they had found evidence of a surge of elephant poaching,”1 something the government has denied.)
And many members of parliament argue the population is out of control:
“Member of Parliament Konstantinos Markus, who has spearheaded the effort to lift the ban, has argued the ‘expansion of the elephant population in Botswana has impoverished communities.’
Markus told Reuters that rural citizens have grown hostile toward the elephants especially in the north where he said the crop-devouring animals have slashed maize yields by nearly three-quarters. ‘This harvest loss leaves the community with fewer options to take care of their households.'”2
But not everyone agrees this is the best way to go about it:
- Charlie Mayhew, CEO of Tusk, the Duke of Cambridge’s conservation charity, said Botswana’s decision to review the hunting ban “a huge disappointment.”
- Howard Jones, CEO of the Born Free Foundation, called the decision to go ahead with the cull “extraordinary, perverse and grotesque.”
- And an elephant conservationist who works with the Botswanan government called the suggested cull and hunting “short sighted” (He wanted to remain anonymous) while also affirming that Botswana has too many elephants.
Right now, culling is set to begin when hunting season opens in May. (According to National Geographic, Botswana’s photo-tourism industry is much more lucrative than its hunting industry.)