FILE - In this June 7, 2017, file photo, two wild elephants, part of a herd that arrived at a wetland near the Thakurkuchi railway station engage in a tussle on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam, India. Development that’s led to loss of habitat, climate change, overfishing, pollution and invasive species is causing a biodiversity crisis, scientists say in a new United Nations science report released Monday, May 6, 2019. (AP Photo/ Anupam Nath, File)

Botswana lifts ban on elephant hunting, to some anger

The southern African nation is home to an estimated 130,000 elephants

Botswana has lifted its ban on elephant hunting in a country with the world’s highest number of the animals, a decision that has brought anger from some wildlife protection groups and warnings of a blow to lucrative tourism.

The southern African nation is home to an estimated 130,000 elephants. The lifting of the ban raised concerns about a possible increase in illegal poaching of elephants for their tusks to supply the ivory trade.

“Expect mass culling next,” the CEO of WildlifeDirect, Paula Kahumbu, said in a post on Twitter, warning that the impact of Botswana’s decision will be felt across Africa.

Botswana has long been a refuge for elephants on a continent where tens of thousands have been killed over the years for their ivory, and the animals long have been a tourist draw. Some had warned of tourism boycotts if the ban was lifted, and even American talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres joined the protest.

“President Masisi, for every person who wants to kill elephants, there are millions who want them protected. We’re watching,” she tweeted after Botswana’s decision was announced.

Lifting the hunting ban comes amid growing conflicts between humans — particularly farmers — and elephants, the government’s statement said. It said hunting will resume “in an orderly and ethical manner” but does not say how it will be regulated.

The country, with a population of just over 2 million people, suffers some human-wildlife conflict but has more space than many other countries for animals to roam.

“Co-existence between wild animals and communities is the only way that wildlife populations will survive,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International. “What a shame that Botswana, previously hailed as a shining example of wildlife conservation and a safe haven for elephants, has opted to become a promoter of trophy hunting.”

Political friction between Botswana’s previous and current president has played a key part in the government’s shifting stance on elephants in the past year.

The hunting ban was put in place under previous president, Ian Khama, an outspoken conservationist, but current President Mokgweeti Masisi began to look into it not long after taking office last year.

The decision to lift the ban comes months ahead of general elections in October.

Khama “says Masisi is just currying favour with the electorate whom he will meet for the first time in October, in an election expected to be extremely close-fought, especially as Khama has backed his opposition,” the Institute for Security Studies wrote earlier this month.

Safari Club International, a U.S.-based group that lobbies to loosen restrictions on trophy hunting worldwide, cheered Botswana’s decision. The group has long argued that the fees paid by big-game hunters provide essential revenue for African governments to fund conservation programs.

“It is heartening to see that the government of Botswana has taken all aspects into its careful consideration of this matter,” said Paul Babaz, SCI’s president. “These findings clearly show that hunting bans actually hurt wildlife conservation.”

Though President Donald Trump has decried big-game hunting as a “horror show,” his administration has reversed Obama-era restrictions on the importation of elephant and lion trophies for personal use or display.

Botswana also is among several African countries with some of the world’s largest elephant populations that have pushed for looser controls on legal ivory trade . They assert that the commerce will help them pay to conserve elephants, while critics assert that even limited trade fuels demand and drives up illegal killing.

Botswana and neighbouring Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa are estimated to have about 256,000 elephants, or more than half of the total estimate for Africa.

Earlier this month Botswana’s president raised some eyebrows when he gave stools made of elephants’ feet to regional leaders while hosting a meeting on the animals’ fate.

Cara Anna, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Process to identify those killed in Gabriola plane crash could take days

Canadian flight museum suggests Alex Bahlsen of Mill Bay died in Tuesday’s crash

Conservation officers put down fawn blinded by BB gun in Nanaimo

Young deer found near construction site in Hammond Bay area

UPDATE: One person dead after crash on Nanaimo Lakes Road

One person dies, another was injured in the accident which happened at about noon Wednesday

Vancouver Island universities raking in the cash from foreign students

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

UPDATE: One person dead after crash on Nanaimo Lakes Road

One person dies, another was injured in the accident which happened at about noon Wednesday

Raptors fans show Kawhi the love in his return to Toronto

Leonard receives championship ring, leads new club to win

Brotherston sentenced to three years in prison for Sooke home invasion

Home invasion took place on Feb. 9 and left one man with face and head injuries

Royal Jubilee getting 15 new end-of-life care beds

New patient beds in hospice and acute palliative care to be in place by spring 2020

B.C. guide fined $2K in first conviction under new federal whale protection laws

Scott Babcock found guilty of approaching a North Pacific humpback whale at less than 100 metres

‘Honest mistake:’ RCMP says B.C. cannabis shop can keep image of infamous Mountie

Sam Steele wearing military, not RCMP uniform in image depicted in Jimmy’s Cannabis window

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

Feds urge Air Canada to fix booking problems as travel season approaches

The airline introduced the new reservation system more than three weeks ago

Almost 14,000 Canadians killed by opioids since 2016: new national study

17,000 people have been hospitalized for opioid-related poisoning

Most Read