Botswana has lifted its ban on elephant hunting, in a controversial decision announced Thursday by environment and wildlife minister Kitso Mokaila.
The ruling follows a year-long process in Botswana to evaluate the ban, which was put in place five years ago by former president Ian Khama. He was succeeded in April 2018 by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who wanted to explore the potential for removing it.
Among the findings, Botswana said, was evidence that human-elephant conflict was growing and livestock deaths had increased, while communities saw economic impacts from the hunting ban. The Department of Wildlife and National Parks also lacked capacity to properly enforce the ban or deal with its consequences.
“Conservation is in our DNA. We have never been reckless and we will never be reckless,” Mokaila said. “I want the world to understand fully that our responsibility to conservation has not changed, but our responsibility for our people as well has not changed and we must make them part of the solution.”
Botswana’s elephant population, one of the largest on the continent, is more than double its target capacity of 54,000, the government said in a short video explaining the decision. That’s causing damage to human communities, natural resources like water, and vegetation.
The decision was met with anger and dismay from some conservation and elephant advocacy groups, including Western journalists and celebrities. Their negative responses were met with criticism from Botswanans and other Africans who argued for the autonomy of those who actually live in countries with elephants, and who are best poised to make conservation decisions for themselves.
Images: Government of Botswana