I wish I understood the real drivers behind President Mokgweetsi Masisi
of Botswana’s decision to auction elephant hunting licences (BBC News). Wildlife generally in Africa is under huge strain and poaching remains rampant across the continent. Is Botswana now so overrun by elephants that it needs to licence the killing of 270 of these magnificent, complex, social and majestic creatures?
This does not appear to be a necessary, well controlled, selective humane culling program. A deposit of just $18k to participate in the bidding for seven hunting packages each licensing the killing of ten elephants is simply appalling. What will people pay for a short term rush and ego boost associated with killing a defenceless elephant? How is this morally or socially acceptable in 2020? The intent to issue a licence for the killing of a further 200 elephants after the new hunting season begins in April 2020 signals desperation and opportunistic measures.
Is the decision simply driven by national and local politics and the need to get rural communities onboard by removing competition for grazing, access to arable land and protection of crops, people and villages? If so, where will it stop, how many must be killed before it is enough? How will the proceeds be used? Will they finance wildlife intervention, relocation and compensation programs so this never has to be done again?
The human race has placed our planet under great strain. Simply killing elephants is not the answer to the current global pressures on climate, wildlife and ecosystems and nor is this decision consistent with conservation and the successful 2014 hunting ban.
There is most certainly a better way. It’s perhaps a more difficult, challenging and rocky road to travel but very necessary. Communities bear the cost of living with wildlife and their deeply engrained ambivalence or even hostile attitude can and must be changed.
Communities must learn that wildlife is part of their salvation and not just another problem. For conservation to become truly sustainable, communities must be embraced and learn to value wildlife. It can be done - we must firmly ‘grasp this nettle’. Could this be the legacy of a great President or just another poor decision?