Botswana has lifted the country’s ban on elephant hunting, saying the population has sufficiently increased, and the ban negatively impacts farmers’ livelihoods.
A prohibition was introduced in Botswana in 2014 by then-president Ian Khama. However, lawmakers from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) have since been lobbying to overturn the ban, claiming elephants have become unmanageable in some areas due to their numbers.
Current president Mokgweetsi Masisi took over from Khama last year. Five months later, a public review started with reports stating growing political friction between Masisi and Khama.
Botswana’s environment ministry said in a statement, via The Guardian:
“Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension.”
They said a cabinet committee review found:
“…the number and high levels of human-elephant conflict and the consequent impact on livelihoods was increasing.
The general consensus from those consulted was that the hunting ban should be lifted [and hunting will be restarted] in an orderly and ethical manner.”
Botswana, a landlocked country in southern Africa, has the largest elephant population on the continent. It is reported to have more than 135,000 elephants roaming freely in unfenced parks and open spaces.
According to some experts, the number of elephants has almost tripled in that past 30 years, with some numbers suggesting the population is over 160,000.
Farmers in the country claim to struggle with the growing population, arguing they can’t keep elephants out of their crops, and people can often die from trying to keep them away.
Botswana is holding an election in October, and lifting the ban could prove popular among rural voters and communities.
Elephants from Botswana often roam across borders into Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. All four countries have called for the global ban on the ivory trade to be relaxed, as growing numbers of elephants are becoming unmanageable in some areas.
Earlier this month, president Masisi said:
“We cannot continue to be spectators while others debate and take decisions about our elephants.
Conflict between elephants and people is on the rise as the demand for land, for agriculture and settlements is growing.”
Despite elephant numbers increasing in some countries, the overall population of African elephants has fallen by about 110,000 – to 415,000 – mainly because of poaching for ivory.