Botswana To Lift Ban On Elephant Hunting
The government of Botswana has announced that it will lift its suspension of elephant hunting in an “orderly and ethical manner”. The decision was inevitable nevertheless the country’s tourism and conservation reputation has taken a massive hit. Since Botswana’s President Mokweetsi Maisi announced last year that the country was thinking about lifting the hunting ban, the campaign has been well orchestrated.
Hunting is being projected as a solution
Hunting has been portrayed as a solution to human elephant conflict (HEC) as well as cast as a solution to elephant population control and even rural poverty. The Botswana Democratic Party which has run the country since it achieved independence in 1966 has seen its support drop to a record low. It is believed that by lifting the ban the President hopes to be able to hang on to the rural vote necessary to win an election scheduled in October.
Human animal conflict
The main justification for lifting he ban is the alleged increase in human-wildlife conflict especially incidents involving elephants. There is no question that human animal conflict is a real problem for people who live with wildlife on a day-to-day basis that needs to be dealt with. However, no data exists that shows human animal conflict is in fact increasing.
Trophy hunting is a bad management tool
More importantly trophy hunting should not be used to manage elephant populations and instead communities should be given assistance in developing more sophisticated techniques for dealing with elephants and wildlife. The government of Botswana is not only talking about lifting the ban on elephant hunting but also lifting the ban on hunting predators as well because the government claims their numbers are increasing too.
No data to back up the claims
There is also no scientific evidence to back up any of these claims. Many parts of the country are still recovering from the 1980’s and 1990’s when over hunting took place particularly amongst lions. Mature elephant bulls that are of most interest to trophy hunters already face enormous pressure from poaching and the more recent surveys suggest their numbers have fallen precipitously. President Masisi says the hunting ban has negatively impacted the livelihood of local communities.
More creative solutions are needed
That is to be expected because the bocks used for hunting in Botswana were never put out for tender to be converted into eco-tourism. Many remained under the ownership of hunting concessionaires. Tourism is in fact Botswana’s second largest industry and was not consulted by the president. Industry people say they think more creative solutions need to be found for communities affected by giving them access to tourism revenue.