Botswana’s ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism says the legalised hunting of elephants will not significantly contribute to the reduction of the majestic animals, as government presses ahead with more hunting permits.
The rationale for lifting the 2015 hunting ban was to reduce the human wildlife conflict that appeared to be reaching a crisis, with elephants venturing in new territories, wreaking havoc in planting fields and sometimes killing people. But this has been met by fierce criticism, mostly from outside conservationist, who accused the country of taking the easiest and most profitable option instead of a more sustainable approach.
Though the government plans to issue 400 hunting rights each year, they have since issued a quota for the killing of 272 of the animals this year, of which foreign hunters will be allowed to shoot 202 elephants and export trophies. Critics have also said the number of the quota is low to have an impact on reducing human wildlife conflict as nearly 130,000 elephants are said to increase by 5 percent annually, a figure greater than the quota.
Minister Philda Kereng last week told parliament that 68 elephants were killed after 72 hunting license rights were issued for the 2019/2020 hunting season that ran from Sept. 2019 to Jan 2020. The government has recently concluded another fresh round of an auction which sold hunting permits to kill 60 elephants, which brings total licences issued to 132 since the ban was lifted.
The minister said hunting is another way of controlling the elephant population, and the recent issuance of hunting permits were to reduce the human-wildlife conflicts in targeted areas.
“The hunting quota allocated for the 2019/2020 hunting season will not significantly contribute to the reduction of the elephant population in the Okavango eco-system. In relation to the total estimated population of the 126,114 elephants in Northern Botswana, 68 elephants hunted account to only 0.05 per cent which is relatively lower than the calving rate of 5 percent,” Kereng said.
She though government wants to significantly reduce the number of elephants, they will not allow mass hunting of elephants in a short period of time but added that government might increase the quota of elephants to be killed in the next hunting season.
“Hunting remains the way to reduce elephant population. I said that the previous hunting season, the numbers have not significantly reduced but they have reduced. Wait until the 2020 hunting season ends and you will see a significant reduction in elephant population,” said Kereng.