AS BOTSWANA RETURNS TO ELEPHANT HUNTING DO CONSERVATION GROUPS DECAMPAIGN THE COUNTRY AS A TOURISM DESTINATION
(Posted 13th September 2019)
Botswana, among the countries suffering a massive defeat at the last CITES GOP18 meeting, when their proposals to open up ivory trade were turned down by the required 2 / 3 majority of countries present, is facing yet more uncomfortable times ahead after news broke that the country plans to return to elephant hunting.
Under highly respected former President Ian Khama had hunting been banned but his successor President Masisi, busy nixing many of his former mentor’s policies and decisions, has decreed hunting of elephant to be open again, in good part as an election ploy to garner votes from rural areas.
Conservationists have already vowed to troll the country’s tourism marketing and decampaign the country as an upcoming killing ground for the species, threats not to be taken lightly as other destinations in Africa with similar hunting policies have found out at their expense.
Writes Bloomberg about the situation:
Botswana has reintroduced elephant hunts with a cautious approach to pricing, a move likely to further inflame the controversy threatening a US$2 billion tourism industry after a five-year ban on hunting was lifted.
The government will auction licenses to hunting operators for the right to shoot 158 elephants but is yet to decide on the minimum price it will set at the sales, said Kitso Mokaila, the country’s environment minister.
There will also be a charge of 20,000 pula, or US$1,834, for each of 72 elephant hunting licenses designated for foreigners, according to government documents seen by Bloomberg.
That compares to at least US$21,000 for the right to shoot an elephant in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population, with about 130,000 of the animals roaming free nationwide.
“It’s a very reasonable price,” said Dries van Coller, president of the Professional Hunters Association in South Africa.
“They would rather proceed with caution, and see how it goes.”
President Mokgweetsi Masisi put pachyderms at the centre of Botswana’s politics ahead of October elections, breaking ranks with his predecessor Ian Khama and angering conservationists by saying elephants are too numerous and threaten villagers.
While his stance has won widespread rural support, it has prompted warnings from US activists that tourists may go elsewhere. Still, by lifting the hunting ban, Botswana has brought itself in line with its neighbours.
The number of hunting licenses is below the 400 cap it set itself, and compares with 500 licenses in Zimbabwe and 90 in Namibia.
In South Africa, foreign hunters generated 1.95 billion rand, or US$133 million, in 2017.
Less than 50 elephants are shot in South Africa annually and Zambia has allocated 37 licenses for this year.
The all-in cost of an elephant hunt typically involves several hundred dollars a day for the professional hunters who accompany the tourists, as well as accommodation and taxidermy fees.
Hunts can last 10 to 18 days on average. Most trophy hunters in southern Africa come from the US.
“We want to start off cautiously and steadily to see if all that we want under the guidelines can be done properly,” Mokaila said.
The sales will start soon, he added.
Tourism, mainly in the form of photographic safaris, accounts for a fifth of Botswana’s economy.