Botswana order puts jumbo in crosshairs

Elephant at Maasai Mara. [Wilberforce Okwiri/Standard]
Botswana, home to the world’s largest elephant population, may lift a ban on hunting for sport in the face of what the government says is growing conflict between humans and wildlife, a move sure to provoke protest from animal welfare groups.

Conservationists estimate the land-locked southern African country to have around 130,000 elephants, close to a third of the continent’s population, but the government says the number is closer to 230,000, causing problems for small-scale farmers.

“Communities have become very hostile and negative towards wildlife,” said Konstantinos Markus, a member of parliament from the wildlife-rich northwestern part of Botswana.

He said crop raiding by elephants in the Chobe district in the north had reduced yields of the staple maize crop by as much 72 per cent.

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“This harvest loss leaves the community with fewer options to take care of their households while perceptions of local communities towards wildlife conservation have changed since the hunting ban,” he told Reuters.

Botswana’s parliament passed a motion on June 21 to review and reconsider the ban, which was imposed by former president Ian Khama in 2014 after surveys showed declining wildlife populations in the north.

elephantshuman-wildlife conflict