GABORONE - Botswana has earned $2.7 million from elephant hunting this year, say officials, more than double the last full hunting season seven years ago. Botswana lifted a five-year ban on trophy hunting in 2019 and this year the government issued 287 licenses for elephant hunting. Critics say the practice should be stopped.
The minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng, told parliament Monday that hunting revenues rose from about $1.3 million in 2014 to $2.7 million this year.
Botswana opened the sport to international hunters, who pay up to $43,000 to shoot a single elephant.
"My ministry remains optimistic that the revenue accruing to the communities will continue to grow once restrictions on international travel are fully relaxed. Also the intensive vaccination programs across the world against COVID-19 will also facilitate more interest and more travel," she said.
In lifting the hunting ban in 2019, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the aim was to address growing human-wildlife conflict, and crucially, provide income for local communities.
FILE - Elephants cross the road packed with the trucks waiting to cross the river over the Kazungula bridge in Kazungula, Botswana, May 10, 2021.
Minister Kereng said the government has come up with strategies to increase revenue from hunting, which will benefit communities.
'The implementation of strategic actions recommended in the Elephant Management Plan of 2021 to 2026 and other hunting reforms that the ministry has instituted are also expected to further increase revenues to communities into the future, such as long-term agreements with hunting communities, direct sale of hunting quotas, to mention a few," said Kereng.
She said special elephant hunting quotas are allocated to areas with high incidences of conflict between humans and the pachyderms.
Some of the funds from elephant hunting are used in programs meant to reduce such conflict. The rest of the proceeds are used in community development projects.
The chief executive of the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association, Isaac Theophilus, said this year's hunting was incident-free. Last year, a collared elephant meant for research was mistakenly shot.
"We have not had any complaints from the field regarding any transgressions of the law or anything like that. Our association works on a strict code of ethics that guide professional hunters who conduct most of the hunts. After a six-year absence of hunting, everybody is happy with the decision taken by the government. Communities' livelihoods will improve as a result of revenue that accrues from hunting.' said Theophilus.
Local professional hunters like Randy Motsumi, said he and his colleagues have been deprived of income since 2014, when former president Ian Khama imposed a ban on hunting.
'The hunting was a success and it was a blessing to the communities. The communities got their employment back. There is a lot of change, we see developments in the communities. We see conservation being funded, patrols are being initiated, and we hope animals will be relieved of poachers. People now start to realize the importance of the animals they live around, because of the income that is generated by the same animals. That makes people change their behavior towards the same animals,' said Motsumi.
Hunters are allowed to kill other species, including buffaloes, crocodiles and leopards.
Botswana has the world's largest elephant population, estimated at more than 130,000.
While the numbers are increasing in Botswana, elsewhere on the continent, the population has declined by more than 30 percent in the past decade, due to loss of habitat and poaching.