Botswana, home to the world’s largest elephant population, is moving toward culling the numbers of the giant mammals by lifting a wildlife hunting ban, after a group of Cabinet ministers endorsed the move.
Former President Ian Khama had directed that a hunting ban be put in place during his term. This ban was extended to all ‘citizen hunting’ and covered all species, including elephant and lion that can only be shot when designated as “problem animals”. In 2013, the government said then it was spurred to act after seeing indications “that several species in the country are showing declines.”
Last year in June, President Mokgweetsi Masisi tasked a government subcommittee with reviewing a moratorium on trophy hunting put in place by his predecessor, in 2014.
On 21st of February, the subcommittee said it had decided to advise lifting the ban which prohibited hunting the pachyderms on public lands. The committee appointed by the president recently made its recommendations in a White Paper regarding the hunting ban and human-elephant conflict. Among their recommendations, they suggest that the hunting ban be lifted, efforts are taken to confine elephants to the protected areas and/or reduce the population through culling, and that the government should focus on reducing human-elephant conflict.
Frans Solomon Van Der Westhuizen, minister of local government and rural development, said the group recommends allowing “regular but limited elephant culling,” as well as creating a legal framework to help grow Botswana’s safari hunting industry. The group also recommends establishing elephant meat canning, including for the production of pet food and other byproducts.
Involving communities in conservation has proven to be successful in Namibia and Zimbabwe, and Botswana was moving in this direction, until it was blocked by the former administration. Communities that live in the heart of the Okavango Delta lost 200 jobs and millions after the hunting ban, and when they tried to make up for it by switching to ecotourism, their income was threatened. The supply of meat from the hunting industry was also the only reliable source of protein these people had, as livestock farming is all but impossible in areas teeming with predators, and these villages are hours from the nearest towns where meat is sold. Whilst the communities in the Delta retained some income through ecotourism, the impacts of the hunting ban were even more severe among San communities that most tourists have never heard of. These communities are located in the dry parts of the country, far from the main tourism hubs. The ban on hunting covered both trophy hunting and subsistence hunting, so these communities were not allowed to make an income, or even feed themselves in their traditional way.
Source: National Public Radio and Gail Potgieter