Elephant conservation

Botswana opens elephant hunting season

An elephant in the Chobe river in Botswana, which has offered nearly 300 elephant hunting licenses for the 2021 season.
An elephant in the Chobe river in Botswana, which has offered nearly 300 elephant hunting licenses for the 2021 season. © Chris Jek/AFP

Botswana was due to open its hunting season as planned on Tuesday with 287 licenses to shoot elephants, which were placed last month on a list of endangered species.

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Botswana’s government issued 100 new elephant hunting licenses for 2021, in addition to the 187 from the 2020 season, which was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most trophy hunters come from the United States, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, and travel restrictions have kept out other hunters from Europe.

With 130,000 elephants, Botswana has the world’s largest population, who migrate through the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area that also spans parts of Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Botswana has largely managed to keep away ivory poachers, who are responsible for decimating 30 percent of the African elephant population in the past decade, and its population is actually growing.

However, this month the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed African savannah elephants as endangered, and forest elephants as critically endangered.

Trunk call

The Botswana government uses IUCN reports to guide its conservation efforts. But it has pointed out that the increase of its elephant population justifies the decision to allow legal hunting.

In 2019 the government lifted a ban on trophy hunting put in place by conservation-minded president Ian Khama in 2014.

The sale of the licenses benefit local communities who are affected by the increased range of elephants looking for water, as drought conditions push them into contact with humans, destroying crops and sometimes trampling people.

The government has also sold licenses to kill leopards, zebras and buffaloes.

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