Botswana trophy hunting ban

17. July 2018

Aerial view of large male elephant walking though tall grasses on the Botswana Savannah. Photo credit: Lori Labrecque / shutterstock

Botswana is one of the rare African countries having banned trophy hunting in 2014. The country has the world’s largest elephant population with more than a third of the elephants left in Africa.

In the Southern Times article of July 2, 2018, Mpho Tebele reports that some members of the Botswana parliament support a motion to lift the elephant hunting ban, because it “had not only contributed to an increase in the number of elephants, but also contributed to a rise in poaching.” Additional official reasons for  shooting elephants in areas outside designated game reserves and national parks are the increasing elephant- human conflicts, particularly in rural areas, and the claim that trophy hunting of elephants provides greater benefits to rural populations than does tourism. *

Not surprisingly, Botswana’s elephant experts do not agree. Dr. Mike Chase, Botswana born biologist with a Phd in elephant ecology and founder of Elephants without borders (EWG), counters these arguments with the following well documented facts:

Contrary to popular belief, Botswana’s elephant population is not increasing.” Apparently, elephant surveys by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks and EWB’s demographic modeling show that the elephant population has been stable for the last 15 years.  The increase in human-elephant conflicts appears to be the result of elephants re-populating historical elephant ranges. Such new distribution of elephants outside the  reserved areas has its origins in an increase in human population density, search for food and water, failure to control poaching in neighboring countries and failure to maintain effective barriers to elephant movements. It is doubtful whether any of these problems will be solved by allowing trophy hunting to resume. Dr. Chase also addresses the assertions that elephant hunting is an African mainstay and that without it communities get no benefit from their wildlife populations. In fact, the impressive growth of the wider eco-tourism industry over the last 20 years indicates the opposite. **

A zebra attempts to share a watering hole with a herd of elephants in Botswana. Photo credit: Rabia Jaffar / shutterstock

Dr. Steve Boyes in his article “Locals need greater ownership of wildlife tourism, or the hunting lobby wins”  analyzes the proposed trophy hunting ban as follows:

“Having the world’s largest elephant population is something to be proud of. Over the last 50 years almost two-thirds of all wildlife has disappeared due to hunting, habitat destruction, and human wildlife conflict. Botswana has provided a new model for how we can value, celebrate and protect wildlife. ” 

Even Safari companies agree with Dr. Boyes that to shoot an elephant dead is worth $ 50,000, while an live elephant brings in millions when photographed repeatedly by tourists. The only problem is that local communities see very little of these millions. Before rural communities will tolerate and support wildlife, things must change to ensure that they will receive a far larger share of the benefits of eco-tourism.

The Botswana hunting lobby is simply testing the new government, and if successful, would probably end one of the greatest conservation successes in Africa. ***

Silhouette of lion and elephant at sunset. Photo credit: Lurtil / shutterstock


* SOUTHERN TIMES, July 2, 2018 Botswana Parliament motion to lift ban on trophy hunting by Mpho Tebele

** MMEGI ONLINE, July 6, 2018 Faulty reasoning on Lifting Trophy Hunting Ban by Dr. Mike Chase

*** MMGI ONLINE, July 6 2018 Locals nee”d greater ownership of wildlife tourism, or hunting lobby wins by Dr. Steve Boyes