Botswana Sells 60 Elephant Trophy Hunting Permits, Alarming Conservationists
Botswana has auctioned off 60 permits to trophy hunters looking to bag an elephant in the country, according to The Independent, as experts warn of a “major global conservation disaster.”
The permits went for a collective 25.7 million Botswanan pula, or about $23.4 million — money that government officials insist will benefit small communities, though conservationists disagree.
They also disagree that the move will not further endanger the giant mammals, whose population across Africa has seen a decline of more than two-thirds over the past 40 years.
Activists lobbied against President Mokgweetsi Masisi last year when he decided to end Botswana’s five-year ban on big-game hunting, but to no avail. The government has “issued a quota for the killing of 272 elephants during this year’s hunting season, from April to September.”
Botswana is home to Africa’s largest elephant population, The Independent noted, and as their numbers have increased alongside expanding human farmland since the 1990s, the elephants have caused increasing damage to crops.
But not all agree that issuing permits to hunt and kill the creatures will have the desired effect — nor that it is the only way to address the “human-elephant conflict.”
Rosemary Alles, co-founder and president of the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, said: “Studies have shown that local communities do not reap the benefits that they are promised from the hunting industry.
“Killing 272 elephants in Botswana will not control elephant numbers, it will not reduce human-elephant conflict and will not create jobs in areas where opportunities are scarce.
“Appropriate land-use planning including dedicated migratory corridors will aid elephant dispersal and increase the probability of amicable human elephant coexistence.”
Other wildlife activists have warned that by allowing the biggest elephants to be taken down will only further weaken the overall population, increasing the likelihood of extinction down the road.
“Scientists have noticed that trophy hunting and poaching of African elephants is leading to elephants having shorter tusks and that there are now more adult elephants with no tusks,” Eduardo Goncalves, founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, told The Independent.
“Trophy hunting is artificial selection. By targeting the biggest and strongest animals, it leaves the weaker, smaller animals behind. This means the best genes are being lost, so the species will be less able to adapt to accelerating climate change, it will be more prone to disease, and the risk of extinction is greater.”
Goncalves also noted that some of the country’s poorest communities will be worse off for killing the elephants, saying that one-off trophy fees replace the $2 million income stream from nature tourism over one elephant’s lifetime.
“Trophy-hunting of elephants often brings a slow, painful death. With its population dwindling and increasingly scattered, the impact of trophy-hunting could be disastrous and possibly contribute to the extinction of the species,” explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes wrote to Masisi.
“This would be a major global conservation disaster – potentially the worst in living memory – and have tremendously damaging consequences for efforts to conserve endangered fauna and flora everywhere.”