Following the request of Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi to review the hunting ban placed by his predecessor, Ian Khama in 2014, the cabinet ministers in Botswana have suggested that the southern African nation should lift its four-year ban on big game hunting and also allow the canning of elephant meat for pet food.
There has been rising tension over the alleged increase in elephant population, alongside concerns regarding how far they travel, with some arguing that the Elephants damage crops. The Director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Otisitwe Tiroyamodimo told BBC Africa that there were many factors involved, including climate change.
“We started seeing that as soon as the rain started decreasing, the vegetation started deteriorating and then the elephants naturally migrated outside their natural range because they were getting very little water and very little feed,” said Tiroyamodimo.
“The number of the elephants has increased – at the same time the human population also increased, and there has been demand for more land. Infrastructure development has also caused the elephants to migrate,” he added.
However, according to the final results of an aerial wildlife survey conducted in Botswana by a charitable organisation, “Elephants without borders”, it was discovered that the African country is being faced with serious poaching issues. This means that contrary to the popular opinion that the elephant population was on the increase, there has been no increase.
People living in rural areas close to the elephants, support the re-introduction of hunting, arguing that the amount of conflict has increased since the ban was introduced. Elephants can be very destructive when they encroach on farmlands and move through villages – destroying crops and sometimes killing people.
Botswana is one of the top 5 safari destinations to see elephants in the African continent. Tourism is Botswana’s second largest source of foreign income after diamond mining. This, therefore, raises the question of whether lifting the ban is a wise decision considering tourism is a major source of foreign income. If the ban on poaching is removed, it might have an impact on Botswana’s international reputation as a luxury safari destination which could, in turn, result in huge revenue loss.