By Matthew Brooks
The nation of Botswana has lifted a ban on elephant hunting. The ban has been in place since 2014.
The president of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, set up a committee in February to explore the possibility of lifting the ban. The committee came to the conclusion that the legal hunting of elephants would benefit the nation.
The restriction on hunting was reportedly a problem for farmers who operated smaller farms, according to the BBC.
The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism of Botswana issued a statement on the decision to lift the ban.
“The number and high levels of human-elephant conflict and the consequent impact on livelihoods was increasing,” the ministry said.
The ministry emphasized that the wildlife populations have “increased and were causing a lot of damage as they kill livestock in large numbers.”
Not an open hunting season
The committee recommended measures for population control, but not an unlimited open hunt on the elephants.
Accordingly, the ministry said that the “re-instatement of hunting is done in an orderly and ethical manner.”
The committee decided that the elephant population in Botswana should be managed “within its historic range.”
The recommendation by the committee was for a “regular but limited elephant culling.”
Among the committee’s findings, there was a recommendation that there be an “establishment of elephant meat canning” for purposes of pet food.
“Elephants clearly have a cognitive ability to understand where they are threatened and where they are safe and in this case they are seeking refuge and sanctuary in Botswana where they are well protected,”
The human factor
The need for more land to manage a growing human population was another factor, he said.
There are approximately 415,000 elephants in Africa. Of those, about 130,000 are in Botswana, according to the Great Elephant Census.
Botswana is home to such a large elephant population due to the nation being considered the last place of refuge for elephants on the continent of Africa.
Dr. Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders told the BBC that elephants are able to determine areas where they are more likely to be safe from poachers.
“Elephants clearly have a cognitive ability to understand where they are threatened and where they are safe and in this case they are seeking refuge and sanctuary in Botswana where they are well protected,” Chase told the BBC.
The director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Otisitwe Tiroyamodimo, said that the factors for lifting the ban included climate change, according to the BBC.
“The rain started decreasing, the vegetation started deteriorating and then the elephants naturally migrated outside their natural range because they were getting very little water and very little feed,” Tiroyamodimo said.
In 20189 Statistics Botswana released an agricultural census, showing that drought has had a large impact on the nation’s cattle population.
Botswana’s cattle population has decreased from and estimated 2.5 million in 2011 to 1.7 million in 2015. The number of Botswana residents raising cattle has also decreased by about half.
Cattle is part of the traditional life of men, women, and children in Botswana. The traditional dance attire used part of the cattle, including leather.
Farming is not a significant part of the Botswana economy. Agriculture represents only 3% of the nation’s GDP. The number one export, about 70% of the nation’s earnings, is diamonds.
Diamond mining is the largest part of the Botswana economy. Tourism is second.
Natural resources like the wildlife population is a main part of the tourism economy in Botswana.
Diamonds were first discovered in Botswana in 1967.
Botswana is a land-locked country in between Namibia and Zimbabwe, north of South Africa.