Botswana’s War on Elephants

7. June 2019


Man has much power of discourse which for the most part is vain and false; animals have but little, but it is useful and true, and a small truth is better than a large lie.

Leonardo da Vinci                          


The official justification for Botswana’s lifting of the trophy hunting ban, reducing wild-life protection and instituting elephant culling operations is based on the disingenuous arguments, that trophy hunting and culling reduce human-elephant conflict and provide important funding for conservation and poor rural populations.

A Botswana elephant family giving shade to a sleeping baby during a mid-day rest. Photo credit: Glen Bloomfield.

Following the hunting lobby’s propaganda that eco-tourism is not sufficient to sustain endangered wildlife species’ the government appears to support the oxymoron that only trophy hunting can.   To get this difficult message accepted internationally, the Botswana government hired the Los Angeles PR firm 42WEST. Public backlash to these attempts resulted in the PR firm cancelling their Bostwana contract. It might also be of interest to know that former Botswana president Ian Khama, whose wildlife policies made luxury eco-tourism Botswana’s second most lucrative industry after Diamond mining, angrily renounced his political party membership, considering the new policies of president Masisi a betrayal of what their joint party stands for.  

Botswana elephant family enjoying the Okavango river delta. Photo credit: Glen Bloomfield

Muchazondida Mkono (Australian Research Council DECRA fellow) puts it this way: In countries where trophy hunting is legal, such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, the trophy hunting industry only generates between 0.3 % and 5% of total tourism revenues.

 A 2013 study, conducted by the group Economists at Large, states that communities in the areas where hunting occurs derive little benefit from this revenue. On average communities receive only 3% of the revenue from trophy hunting. 

In a 2017 study, residents of Mababe village in Botswana noted, that compared to hunting, which is seasonal, photographic camps were more beneficial to the community because people were employed all year round. For more details see Muchazondida Mkono’s complete article at:

The new wild-life policies might boost president Masisi’s initial vote-count during the upcoming election by appearing to do something about human-elephant conflict. However, it will become rapidly apparent that hunted elephants are more aggressive causing an increase in conflict with rural populations living around areas were hunting will take place. Eco-tourism in Botswana will collapse and demands for selling ivory stocks will certainly follow. 

Culling and hunting and inadequate wild-life protection, particularly for elephants, will result in a new surge of poaching, seriously endangering the survival of elephants in the south of Africa. 

Rather than destroying  Botswana’s elephant population the country could take the following steps:

Elephant habitat should be clearly defined and forcefully protected from intrusion of people into elephant territory and elephant intrusion into existing human areas.

Elephant birth control science could ultimately adjust the elephant population to sustainable levels.

Implementation of serious eco-tourism profit sharing programs for the local populations living close to elephant habitats, would elevate them to become real partners in Botswana’s second largest industry.