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Elephants divide opinions among Botswana's farmers, conservationists

Elephants divide opinions among Botswana's farmers, conservationists

Botswana

The rural population in Botswana is likely to cheer a government decision to lift a ban on elephant hunting, while conservationists will be outraged.

A prohibition on elephant hunting was introduced in the southern African country in 2014 by then-president Ian Khama, a keen conservationist.

But lawmakers from the ruling Botswana Democratic party have been lobbying to overturn the ban, saying populations have become unmanageably large in some areas.

The general consensus from those consulted was that the hunting ban should be lifted.

Protecting communities

President Mokgweetsi Masisi took over from Khama in April last year and a review began five months later, with reports suggesting growing political friction between Masisi and his predecessor.

“Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension,” the environment ministry said in a statement.

It said a cabinet committee review that found that “the number and high levels of human-elephant conflict and the consequent impact on livelihoods was increasing”.

“The general consensus from those consulted was that the hunting ban should be lifted,” it added, vowing that hunting would is re-started “in an orderly and ethical manner”.

Farmers struggle to keep elephants out of their fields where they eat crops and can kill people, and lifting the hunting ban could be popular with rural voters ahead of an election due in October.

The blessing of elephants

Landlocked Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, with more than 135,000 roaming freely in its unfenced parks and wide open spaces.

Some experts say the number of elephants in the country has almost tripled over the last 30 years, and that the population could now over 160,000.

Many of Botswana’s elephants roam across borders into Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Botswana’s minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Onkokame Kitso Mokaila pledged to give details about the new developments on Thursday.

The ministry insists that the return of wildlife hunting would take place in accordance with laws and regulations governing wildlife conservation, hunting and licensing.

Agencies

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