Elephant Hunting Is Back In Botswana: The Poaching, Protections And Politics

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Elephants drink water in the Chobe National Park in Botswana, March 3, 2013. (Charmaine Noronha, File/AP)
Elephants drink water in the Chobe National Park in Botswana, March 3, 2013. (Charmaine Noronha, File/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Botswana lifts the ban on elephant hunting. We look at the international backlash and the politics.


Pauline Bax, Africa editor for Bloomberg, who has been covering Botswana's elephant summit. (@PaulineBax1)

Ndulamo Anthony Morima, a lawyer and political commentator for Botswana's national weekly paper, the Weekend Post. (@WeekendPostBW)

Richard Ruggiero, a wildlife conservationist and consultant, who recently retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after a 20-year career as the chief of the Division of International Conservation (@USFWSIntl). He spent 17 years on the ground studying African elephants.

From The Reading List

Washington Post: "'I hate elephants': Behind the backlash against Botswana's giants" — "For as long as they can remember, farmers in Botswana lived mostly at peace with elephants, whose knowing eyes and playful kids made them seem almost like friendly human neighbors.

"This southern African country of savannas and swamps is home to roughly one-third of Africa’s elephants, thanks in part to strict anti-poaching enforcement and a trophy hunting ban that have made it a darling of conservationists and a mecca for high-priced tourism. But the population spike has not been easy for the people who live alongside them, and a backlash has erupted.

"'I hate elephants,' said Lumba Nderiki, a farmer well into her 80s, as she strolled through her modest and barren field in the Chobe enclave, a strip of mostly farmland between the river and national park of the same name. 'Two simple reasons: They have widowed me, and they have left me without a harvest.' "

Smithsonian: "Five Things to Know About Botswana’s Decision to Lift Ban on Hunting Elephants" — "Botswana, home to the world’s largest African elephant population, has lifted its five-year suspension of elephant hunting, attracting the ire of conservationists while placating those who argue that the land giants, known to kill livestock and destroy crops, are wreaking havoc on locals’ livelihoods.

"In a statement detailing the reversal, Botswana’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism cited the increasing prevalence of human-elephant conflict, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks’ inability to respond to animal control reports in a timely fashion, and the toll on communities ill-equipped to handle the unimpeded roaming of these roughly 12,000-pound creatures. The ministry further said that reinstatement will be performed 'in an orderly and ethical manner.'

"The exact nature of this 'ethical' implementation remains unclear, as do the long-term ramifications of the decision for both Botswana’s human and pachyderm residents."

Bloomberg: "Elephant Hunt Pits Botswana Villagers Against Hollywood A-List"— "When Botswana, home to about one-third of the world’s African elephants, lifted its hunting ban last month, leaders knew they were courting controversy. The government even hired a public-relations firm specializing in Hollywood celebrities to spin public opinion to its side.

"For President Mokgweetsi Masisi, the need to end the ban was obvious. Rural farmers have borne the brunt of the near-tripling of the elephant population since 1991, to 130,000. As many as 50 Botswanans have been killed by elephants since the ban was implemented in 2014 and hundreds of reports of property damage have been filed. Plus which, Botswana in October is facing its most competitive election since independence in 1966 and Masisi needs rural support.

"That didn’t stop the backlash. Masisi was pilloried by everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to his own predecessor. 'Once again, elephants are being used as political scapegoats, but at a huge cost,' said Jason Bell, vice president–conservation and animal rescue at the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Cape Town."

Stefano Kotsonis produced this hour for broadcast.

This program aired on June 13, 2019.



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