Botswana, home to almost one third of the world’s African elephant population, recently lifted a ban on elephant hunting.
Approximately 130,000 wild African Elephants reside in the country, some of which are classified as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. The Great Elephant Census found a 30% decrease in the total elephant population with an average decrease of 8% a year. The census also states that approximately 84% of all elephants were living in protected sanctuaries.
The ban on elephant hunting in Botswana was first introduced in 2014 by former conservative President Ian Khama, but the now ruling Botswana Democratic Party overturned it, stating elephant populations “have become unmanageably large in some areas.”
Al Jazeera reports the committee—set up in June 2018 to discuss possibly lifting the ban—recommended “a legal framework that will enable the growth of a safari hunting industry and manage the country’s elephant population within the history range.”
Legislators determined the elephant population had increased enough to lift the ban as of May 22. They claim the elephants are now affecting local farmers, but researchers and conservationists say evidence does not support these claims.
“The government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension,” Botswana’s Environmental Ministry said in a statement, according to Al Jazeera. “The ministry would like to reiterate that it will work with all stakeholders to ensure that reinstatement of hunting is done in an orderly and ethical manner.
According to lawmaker Konstantino Markus, the recovering elephant populations have negatively impacted farmers by trampling crops. “This harvest loss leaves the community with fewer options to take care of their households, while perceptions of local communities toward wildlife conservation have changed since the hunting ban,” he told Reuters.
African governments disagree over what is the best solution to elephant hunting and ivory sales. Some countries, such as Zimbabwe, allow trophy hunting while others, like Botswana, argue lifting restrictions would allow profits from ivory sales to fund conservation efforts.
Mike Chase, director of Elephants Without Borders, argues the evidence lawmakers are using is false, and there has not been any significant increase in the elephant population, according to The Washington Post.
“The new arguments for hunting are all wrong—population control, decrease in human-elephant conflict, lots of money for local communities,” Chase told The Washington Post. “What facts are those based in? The reality is that elephant numbers are not growing massicaly, nor is the incidence of human-elephant conflict.”