After President Mokgweetsi Masisi lifted a five-year ban on elephant hunting in May 2019, Botswana auctioned six licenses to hunt a total of 60 elephants on Friday, February 7, 2020. This is the first set of licenses to be issued in the South African country after the lifting of the ban. 

According to Adrian Rass, Managing Director of Auction It Botswana, “seven hunting packages, of 10 elephants each, were available for auction.” However, one package was unsold because bidders did not meet the reserve price of 2 million pula ($181,000) while the six were sold for a total price of 25.7 million pula, Adrian confirmed. 

Botswana together with its neighbours – South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Zambia – in the last few years, have reconsidered conservation laws to protect and balance the needs of sought-after species such as elephants, rhinos and buffalo from poaching while managing the danger they pose as they encroach on areas of human habitation. 

Botswana reportedly has the world’s largest elephant population with about 130,000 living in the country. This is why officials believe that hunting is of great necessity as it eases human-wildlife conflict, especially because of farmers who have seen their crops and infrastructure destroyed by elephants roaming outside their feeding zones.

“Elephants have killed a lot of people and destroyed livelihoods. I think the government is doing the right thing in reducing their numbers,” said Tiro Segosebe, a Gaborone resident whose home village of Maun is one of the areas most affected by the human-wildlife conflict.

Nevertheless, environmentalists like Audrey Delsink, Africa’s wildlife director at the Humane Society International (HSI) said, “the Botswana elephant hunting auctions are deeply concerning and questionable.” Delsink added that “hunting is not an effective long-term human-elephant mitigation tool or population control method.”

Similarly, Neil Fitt, former Chief Executive of the Kalahari Conservation Club (KCC), maintains that hunting elephants is “neither a standard tool of sustainable use of natural resources nor the best method of alleviating the problem of human-wildlife conflict.” Fitt, however, stated that he does not see a problem if the hunting is “done in a proper, ethical and above-board manner.” 

According to the auction notice, the 2020 hunting season, expected to open in April 2020, would be confined to controlled hunting areas only. Also, the hunting of collared elephants will be prohibited and all elephant hunting expeditions must be accompanied by a guide and a professional, at all times.

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