International lobby group, Political Animal Lobby (PAL) has condemned as “disgraceful” Botswana’s decision to reintroduce elephant hunts at a time when Africa’s elephant populations are plummeting.
“It is a decision that will lead to the cruel and unnecessary slaughter of elephants for no reason other than to boost the egos of people who should know better,” said PAL campaigner Andrea Matthee.
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi put elephants at the centre of politics ahead of its October elections, breaking ranks with his predecessor Ian Khama and angering conservationists by saying elephants are too numerous and threaten villagers. While his stance has won widespread rural support, the economic cost could be very high.
Matthee said tourism, mainly in the form of photographic safaris, accounts for a fifth of Botswana’s economy.
“Botswana’s move will threaten the country’s $2-billion (£1.62-billion) tourism industry, and affect thousands of jobs. Not only is this decision bad for elephants, but it will harm people as well.”
The move comes after a five-year ban on elephant hunting. Botswana is holding a general election in October and Matthee said PAL hoped a new government administration would be elected which would reinstate the hunting ban.
“We hope that the people of Botswana will act now and save the country’s wildlife and protect the vital tourist industry,” she said.
The Botswana government will auction licenses to hunting operators for the right to shoot 158 elephants but is yet to decide on the minimum price it will set at the sales, the country’s environment minister Kitso Mokaila has reportedly said.
There will also be a charge of $1,834 (£1,500) for each of the 72 elephant hunting licenses designated for foreigners, according to Bloomberg. That compares to at least $21,000 (£17,000) for the right to shoot an elephant in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population at around 300 000 elephants, but many conservationists dispute this figure, saying that no proper census has been conducted.
“We believe the true figure is much lower and that larger numbers are used to make it seem that the impact will be less,” said Matthee.
“But the reality is Botswana does not know how many elephants it has and it is not taking into consideration that many elephants only spend part of their lives in the country, migrating regularly to neighbouring countries.”