Botswana’s Wildlife authorities respond to international backlash over elephant hunting

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The recent killing of a ‘big tusker’ sparked outrage over killing of iconic males

Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has responded to criticism about the recent killing of prominent ‘big tusker’ elephants. Hunter Leon Kachelhoffer attracted international attention recently after posting a picture of himself kneeling next to a big tusker he had just killed in Botswana. Former president Ian Khama led the criticism, calling the country’s leadership ‘incompetent and poor’.

“This was one of the largest if not the largest tuskers in the country. An elephant that tour operators constantly tried to show tourists as an iconic attraction. Now it is dead,” Khama wrote on his Facebook account.

Peter Bantu, an administrator at Tcheku Community Trust, which sold the right to hunt the elephant to Kachelhoffer, indicated that there was nothing untoward as far as the killing of the bull.

“At this rate, what we can say is that there was nothing wrong about killing the elephant. The proceeds from the sale of this bull will benefit the community,” he said.

According to Bantu, when members of the community benefit from such proceeds, they have a sense of ownership of elephants and actively participate in anti-poaching activities.

The Management Plan aims to conserve optimal elephant populations while ensuring habitats and biodiversity are maintained and the presence of elephants contributes to local economies and national development. It also aims to minimize elephants’ negative impacts on rural livelihoods. It aims to maintain viable populations of elephants in Botswana through minimal interference and where necessary by adaptive management.

The Plan also hopes to ensure elephant populations do not adversely impact biodiversity conservation goals and community livelihood goals, as well as involving all stakeholders in the realization of the full economic potential of elephants and other wildlife resources outside protected areas, through their sustainable utilization.

Botswana often cites hunting as one way to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts, but what is the extent of human-wildlife conflict in the country? The DWNP Director says rural communities (in Botswana and across KAZA) living within the expanding elephant range are increasingly exposed to loss of crops, damage to water-points and fences as well as human fatalities.

Elephant in a national park in Bostwana

“Measures taken by the Government of Botswana to reduce conflict include construction of electric fences and the use of deterrents, while compensation for elephant damage was increased by 100% with effect from November 2013.”

He says tolerance towards elephant damage varies depending on mitigating circumstances such as benefits from wildlife accruing to communities, and whether communities are used to living with elephants or not.

The lifting of the hunting moratorium in 2019, the DWNP says, is expected to increase community tolerance for elephants through employment, cash and other in-kind benefits.

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