Botswana’s government says rural communities have earned $5 million since last year from the proceeds of elephant hunting. Conservationists object to the practice, but local officials say the hunts are necessary to reduce human-wildlife conflict. The annual activity attracts hunters from overseas who pay huge sums to shoot elephants.
Acting Minister of Environment and Tourism, Sethabelo Modukanele, said communities are benefiting following the lifting of a five-year hunting ban.
“Hunting was reinstated in 2019 following a five-year moratorium after extensive stakeholder consultation. This allowed communities to generate considerable revenues amounting to 50 million pula over two years [from 2021 to 2022] for their development projects,” said Modukanele.
Most of the revenue is from international hunters who pay up to $50,000 to shoot a single elephant.
Botswana Wildlife Producers Association chief executive, Isaac Theophilus, says more could be done to ensure communities benefit from wildlife resources.
“Communities can make more from hunting. The problem right now is that communities only depend on selling their hunting quotas, subleasing some of the areas allocated to them. In order to gain more from hunting, communities have to explore other avenues of trying to raise funds, like investing the P50 million that they have accrued into income generating activities,” said Theophilus.
Botswana’s growing elephant population, at more than 130,000, has created conflict with humans, as the animals often trample crops, injure or kill people.
But animal biologist Keith Lindsay said elephant hunting could hurt the species’ breeding patterns.
“The biggest male elephants are the ones that contribute most of the population in terms of survival and mating success. Their genes are actively selected and chosen by female elephants; they prefer mating with the biggest males. By taking away those big males, you are damaging the population’s genetic structure and survival chances in the future,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister Modukanele said the government has distributed nearly 400 wild animals to small-scale farmers to ensure locals have a stake in agro-tourism.
“Government made a deliberate decision to support start-up ventures for Batswana who showed interest and met the requisite criterion for keeping of game in plowing fields. Those who qualified were assisted with animals of various species, such as impala, gemsbok, eland and zebra. To date, 277 have applied and 251 approved and 67 provided with seed stock, totaling 377 animals,” said Modukanele.
At a recent meeting of parties to CITES, the 1963 treaty to protect endangered species, some African countries tried to present a proposal seeking to ban trophy hunting in Botswana and other southern African elephant ranges. The attempt was unsuccessful, and elephant hunting will continue in Botswana for the foreseeable future.