Born Free is extremely concerned at news that Botswana’s Parliament has adopted a motion asking the Government to lift the ban on elephant hunting.
The motion, which would allow the hunting and shooting of elephants outside protected areas, could see the return of hunters, predominantly wealthy Westerners, to the African country with their wallets open and their sights fixed on securing the heads of elephants to hang on their walls back home.
Elephants are in serious decline across Africa, with fewer than 420,000 thought to remain, compared to 1.3 million just a few short decades ago. Poaching for ivory, loss of habitat, conflict with people, and trophy hunting have all contributed to the decline.
Botswana is home to more than a third of Africa’s remaining elephants. While several of its neighbours advocate trophy hunting and a return to commercial trade in ivory, the previous regime in Botswana banned trophy hunting in 2014, and encouraged a far more progressive approach to wildlife conservation. Sadly, the new regime, which came into power in April this year, is seeking to reverse this progress.
Trophy hunting is not an effective way of dealing with problem elephants, controlling elephant numbers, or generating significant funds for conservation or local communities. Rather, the slaughter of individual elephants with particular traits that trophy hunters covet has the potential to result in immense animal suffering, not only for the targeted animals, but also for their families and wider communities, with often devastating consequences for the stability of elephant groups. This destabilisation can in turn lead to increased conflict with people.
There are also fears that, if adopted, the reversal of the hunting ban could be a precedent for Botswana supporting calls for international trade in ivory to be legalised, bucking the emerging global trend towards closure of ivory markets, a trend that is supported by the vast majority of African elephant range States.
A return to trophy hunting will only serve the interests of a small number of individuals and trophy outfitters, while damaging Botswana’s hard-won recent reputation for a compassionate approach to conservation and its valuable eco-tourism industry. Born Free is urging the Government in Botswana to reject the motion.
The Botswanan Government has indicated that communities will be consulted on the proposals prior to a decision being taken.