At a time when tourism rates are rising in Botswana from visitors who appreciate its wildlife, the country with the largest elephant population in the world has made the shameful decision to rescind a ban on trophy hunting the pachyderms.
African elephants have been in steep decline, facing challenges from climate change, habitat loss and poaching. The population of pachyderms has declined by 90 percent in the past century, with only 350,000 elephants remaining in Africa. Their range has been drastically reduced by drought conditions.
In 2014, then Botswana President Ian Khama banned trophy hunting, citing wildlife declines. But current Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced the country will allow up to 400 licenses for elephant hunts. (In fact, a committee he formed to look into lifting the ban actually suggested using elephant meat for dog food.)
While Botswana claims more than 100,000 elephants, and southern African nations have stable populations, it’s difficult to pinpoint populations because more than 200,000 migrate freely between Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola, the Smithsonian noted in an article on the issue.
The decision to lift the ban runs counter to evidence that wildlife watching brings in much more revenue than trophy hunting. World Bank tourism development director Wouter Schalken told NPR that there is “definitely more employment created through photographic safaris” than trophy hunting. The number of tourists in the country increased from 367,000 in 2012 (before the ban) to 502,000 in 2017, which includes 45,977 Americans.
While hunters like to peddle the perspective that they are conservation heroes, and that the money they spend on killing elephants helps preserve them, studies have shown that less than 3 percent actually end up back in local communities. And the very act of killing elephants and bringing home their body parts as trophies just fuels poaching by creating a market for the animals.
“These elephants should be protected under the strictest regulations banning hunts. Short of that, the best way to stop Botswana from allowing the trophy hunting is to hit them where it hurts and boycott any tourism of the country,’’ FoA President Priscilla Feral said. “Use your money instead to visit countries that value their wildlife.”