Trophy Hunting Weakens Conservation Efforts

8. March 2020

The Kenya Wildlife Service informed the BBC News Service, that Tim, one of the last big “tuskers” died in early February in Amboseli National Park. Tim died of natural causes at the age of 50. Tuskers are elephants with tusks reaching the ground. Tim’s tusks weighed more than 45 kg each.

Tim had been collared by “Save the Elephants” to monitor and prevent his crop raiding adventures. He was a special elephant, intelligent and mischievous and beloved by thousands of people who visited Amboseli just for a chance to see him. Tuskers have almost disappeared from African wild elephant herds, being prime targets for trophy hunters and poachers. They are often taken before they reach their re-productive prime and are thus being bred out of elephant populations. In fact in some parks, such as the ADDO National Park in South Africa  both male and female elephants appear to prefer mates with small or no tusks at all.

Tim, the Elephant in Amboseli Park. Photo credit: Ryan Wilke / Save the Elephants

There are probably only 30 wild super tuskers left in all of Africa. As 20 of them are estimated to live in Botswana, the country’s latest killing auction will most likely be the end of super tuskers in Botswana. On February 7, the Botswana government held a major auction selling six packages for killing 10 elephants each.  These 60 licenses to kill were sold to the same white-owned hunting companies which will in turn sell them to individual trophy hunters at considerable mark-ups. The auctions were released to the public on February 3 with only 4 days to bid. One cannot but wonder whether the outcome was pre-decided, particularly, since the EMS Foundation, a South-African conservation advocacy and research organization, attempted to bid for the licenses to prevent the elephants included in the auction packages to be hunted. In their bid EMS stated: “we wish to purchase available licenses with no intention to hunt elephants, but for the money to be appropriately distributed in a way that benefits conservation. The government collected  $2,355,000 for the six packages,   from hunting organizations while ignoring the EMS bid. There is no official accounting of how those funds will be used.

African Elephant with beautiful tusks. Photo credit: Donovan van Staden/ shutterstock

This is particularly serious since the auctioneers are perfectly aware that older elephant bulls contribute hugely to maintaining elephant social structures and to preserving the environment.  In addition, Botswana is willing to ignore that a big-tusked bull will be photographed hundreds of times during his natural lifetime with the potential to bring in much more than a one time kill does.

Perhaps former president Khama’s reaction to the auction says it best:

I have been against hunting because it represents a mentality in those who support it to exploit nature for self-interest that has brought about the extinction of many species worldwide. This policy is driven by those who represent an industry that capitalizes on ecological destruction. The negative effects are already being felt in the tourism industry, which will threaten our revenues and employment that hunting proponents pretend they want to improve. No scientific work was done on numbers to hunt or places to do so.  This new policy will also demotivate those who are engaged in anti-poaching who are being told to save elephants from poachers while the new regime is poaching the same elephants but calling it hunting. How can this government now be trusted to manage controlled hunting despite the rules whilst failing to control poaching? “

Chombe river elephants. Photo credit: Vladislav T. Jirovsek / shutterstock



Featured image: Elephant eye. Photo credit/ Jonathan Pledger / shutterstock