The world's largest elephant population may soon face a sudden flock of hunters as Botswana lifts its ban on elephant hunting.
It's been five years since the ban was set in place, but now, the country is once again allowing the trophy killing of elephants due to the animal's negative impact on local livelihood and properties.
Botswana Reinstates Elephant Hunting
According to the statement from the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resource Conservation and Tourism, the government made the decision to allow elephant hunting again after the assessment of a special committee that was put together to assess the hunting ban specifically. Formed in June 2018, the committee consisted of local authorities, NGOs, researchers, and industry representatives, among others.
Findings of the committee included an increase in conflicts between humans and elephants, which is affecting livelihoods of Botswana residents. A sharp increase in predator populations has led to a bulk of livestock getting killed. Additionally, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks isn't responding quickly enough to animal control reports due to limited capacity.
It's also found that the ban had a negative impact on the livelihoods of the locals, especially community-based organizations that benefitted from the hunting.
"The general consensus from those consulted was that the hunting ban should be lifted," the statement concluded. "On the basis of these issues, the Government has reflected and assessed the recommendations, and lifted the suspension."
The Ministry added that the reinstatement of hunting in Botswana is expected to be done in an orderly and ethical manner.
A Political Decision?
While the government highlights the negative impact of the hunting ban on local livelihood and safety, some critics of the reinstatement-including former President Ian Khama-say that the move is mostly political.
According to Bloomberg, support for President Mokgweetsi Masisi's Botswana Democratic Party sunk to a record low in the last vote in 2014. In reinstating hunting in Botswana, Masisi can boost his popularity in time for the general elections in October.
In an interview with National Geographic in February 2019, Elephants without Borders director Mike Chase discussed the complex issue, saying that a sustainable quota on hunting will ensure a negligible impact on the elephant population. However, he added, there's the international backlash to contend with, which could also negatively affect the country's economy, jobs, and reputation.
With the elephants' range in Botswana expanding, the animals have been coming into more and more contact with humans. The majestic creatures not only destroy crops and properties but also threaten the locals' lives, Chase pointed out.
"Conservation of our species is paramount, but communities' rights and livelihoods are as important as the species itself," Debbie Peak, Botswana Wildlife Producers Association spokeswoman, told Bloomberg.
However, conservationists are against the lifting of the ban as Botswana is widely considered the last remaining safe haven of elephants in Africa. Poaching in Africa has decimated the elephant population, leaving just about 415,000 elephants in the entire continent.