Botswana threatens to send 20,000 elephants to “roam free” in Germany in public dispute over trophy hunting

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Johannesburg — Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi has threatened to send 20,000 African elephants to “roam free” in Germany in a public dispute between the nations over hunting and conservation, according to the German newspaper Bild.

Masisi’s comments came in response to Germany’s government saying earlier this year that it wants to restrict hunters from importing hunting trophies from Africa into Germany.

Botswana is home to roughly one-third of the world’s elephant population. Germany is among the largest importers of hunting trophies in Europe, with German hunters representing a significant amount of the income used to fund sustainable conservation in many African nations.

Masisi said elephant numbers in his country had exploded as a result of conservation efforts to protect the animals, and that trophy hunting was one of the tools his country used to bring in much needed revenue while keeping elephant populations in check.

Germans should “live together with the animals, in the way you are trying to tell us to,” Masisi told Bild, adding: “This is not a joke.”

African countries have long accused Western governments and organizations of campaigning and forcing policies that, in the name of conservation, curb the ability of nations with large elephant populations from using effective means such as culling to control animal numbers.


Nature: Elephants in Botswana

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Botswana previously banned trophy hunting in 2014, but after appeals from local communities who said they needed the revenue from the sport, the ban was lifted in 2019.

Most countries with significant wild animal populations see the native species as resources that can bring in much needed money. Tourism, including trophy hunting, makes up a significant proportion of the national income for a number of African nations. In turn, these countries follow a policy called “sustainable use,” allowing annual hunting quotas to bring money in to help fund conservation efforts for vulnerable species.

With talk of global bans on trophy hunting, some fear those revenues could all but dry up. 

Botswana is home to roughly 130,000 elephants, and some 6,000 new calves are born every year. Elephants live across an estimated 40% of the country’s land. Botswana has even given about 8,000 elephants to Angola and Mozambique – an effort to boost international tourism in those nations while also helping to control numbers in Botswana.

Animal rights groups argue that hunting is cruel to the animals and should be banned, regardless of their numbers.

Conservation leaders from southern African nations warned last month that they would send 10,000 elephants to take up residence in central London’s Hyde Park if the U.K. imposed a ban on the import of safari hunting trophies.

Overpopulation of elephants increases conflict with local human populations, as the animals can destroy crops and even been trample and kill people, Masisi said this week.

Local communities across southern Africa have often found themselves in conflict with elephants, which are seen as pests.

Masisi was quoted by Bild as saying that Germany’s government ministers didn’t have “elephants in their backyard,” but noting that he was “willing to change that.” 

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