The authorities are relaunching hunting on the pretext of regulating a population of animals which has become dangerous.
135,000 elephants live in Botswana territory. This landlocked country in southern Africa is home to the huge Kalahari Game Reserve and the famous Okavango Delta, two animal paradises. Botswana has undoubtedly become the sanctuary of the African elephant, since it shelters nearly a third of the very threatened population of pachyderms estimated at 415,000 individuals on the continent. In this context, the announcement in December 2019 to auction hunting licenses was shocking. It followed the decision made a few months earlier to allow hunting, which has been banned for five years. The first sales took place on February 7, 2020 at the premises of the Ministry of the Environment in the capital, Gaborone. A sale of seven hunting lots authorizing the killing of ten elephants each.
according to Kitty block from the American NGO Humane Society, six lots were sold for a total amount of just over two million euros, or 35 000 euros per head. A sale reserved for local businesses “with proven experience in elephant hunting”, according to Alice Mmolawa, a government wildlife official. She also told AFP that the expeditions must be accompanied at all times by a guide and a professional hunter.
Also according to Kitty Block, Botswana should allow the hunting of a total of 272 elephants this year. Foreign hunters will be able to kill 202 and export the trophies.
Farmers constantly complain about the damage caused by pachyderms on their crops. Sometimes animals can even overthrow residents deadly. The government therefore intends to limit their number by hunting. “We hope that the restoration of hunting contributes significantly to the reduction of conflicts between humans and animals by creating viable and balanced populations”, President Mokgweetsi Masisi explained in November 2019 when he announced the introduction of permits.
An argument that does not hold up according to animal protection associations. There are more peaceful, non-lethal ways to resolve the conflict. There are in particular means of immunocontraception used in particular in South Africa in the famous Kruger park (link in English).
The authorities also intend to develop luxury tourism around these hunts, reserved for more than wealthy customers. Hunting costs the hunter several thousand dollars each day and can last between 10 and 18 days. Because to the hunting license, you have to add the team, the transport, the food. But, say the NGOs, corruption has prevented the local population from perceiving the benefits of this high-end tourism.
By re-authorizing hunting, Botswana has aligned itself with its neighbors. Namibia gives 90 permits, Zimbabwe, second territory of the pachyderms, 500. The safari tourist is a precious commodity. A hunter very much hunted in a way.