Botswana mulls lifting big game hunting ban | News | DW | 22.02.2019
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Botswana mulls lifting big game hunting ban

Botswana is mulling lifting a ban on big game hunting following recommendations from a government committee. The committee said lifting the ban on hunting animals, such as elephants, would "promote conservationism."

Botswana's government is considering lifting a ban on big game hunting, saying it might be necessary to prevent conflict with humans.

Botswana is home to about 130,000 elephants — almost a third of Africa's elephant population — but some lawmakers say the number of elephants in the country is higher than that and causes problems for small-scale farmers.

Read more: The wilderness and the war

A committee set up by President Mokgweetsi Masisi to review the ban his predecessor set said it recommended "a legal framework that will enable the growth of a safari hunting industry and manage the country's elephant population within the historic range" and also called for "regular but limited" elephant culling.

Former President Ian Khama, a keen conservationist, imposed the ban after surveys showed declining wildlife populations in the north.

Watch video 01:31

The forest elephants of Central Africa

Parliament to discuss ban

Masisi said he would pass the report on to the parliament before making any decisions.

"If needs be, we will give the opportunity to parliament to also interrogate it," Masisi said.

Read more: Elephant riding is a dark side of tourism

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party has been lobbying to overturn the ban, especially on elephant hunting, saying numbers have become unmanageably large in parts

Two elephants stand by a dead elephant in Botswana (picture alliance/WILDLIFE/M. Harvey)

Animal charity Elephants without Borders said some 90 elephants were slaughtered for their tusks in Botswana in 2018

Game hunting would 'promote conservationism'

Masisi took over as president in April last year and the review began five months later, just days after a wildlife charity Elephants Without Borders said some 90 elephants had been slaughtered for their tusks, suggesting a sudden spike in poaching.

But the committee's report, put together by Rural Development Minister Frans Van Der Westhuizen, sought to debunk the charity's concerns.

Van Der Westhuizen wrote that overturning the hunting ban would "promote conservationism."

Rural communities would no longer be "concentrating on the negative aspects of property destruction and loss of human lives caused by wildlife," he wrote.

A blow to tourism

Dex Kotze, an independent conservation expert, told the French news agency AFP that a decision to overturn the ban could seriously harm Botswana's tourism industry.

"Botswana has got two million residents and the economy thrives on diamonds and tourism," said Kotze. "This can do major brand damage to Botswana's tourism industry. It's crazy."

Over the past decade, the number of elephants across Africa fell by around 111,000 to 415,000, according to figures from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Watch video 00:51

Luis Arranz, WWF: We're losing the war against poachers

law/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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