Jakarta, TOPNews Indonesia –
Botswana resumed the controversial hunting season on Tuesday, a government official said, after the “luxury tourism” activities were suspended last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Permits have been issued to kill 287 elephants, the largest animal category, according to authorities.
The landlocked southern African country has the world’s largest elephant population, estimated at around 130,000.
In 2014, the country initiated a comprehensive ban on hunting to prevent the extinction of the elephant population and other species, but lifted those restrictions five years later.
The hunting season was canceled last year after Botswana blocked arrivals from high-risk countries for Covid-19 including Britain, Italy and the United States, where most of the wealthy hunters originated.
The hunting season will run until the end of September, the director of the department of wildlife and national parks, Kabelo Senyatso, told AFP.
A pro-hunting lobby, the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association (BWPA), welcomed the start of the hunting season, saying local people – who are short of income due to the closure of tourist gates – will begin to benefit again.
“Since we opened this morning, we have had guests on the ground, some of them from America,” said spokeswoman Debbie Peake.
The lifting of the ban – originally imposed by former President Ian Khama, a critical environmental activist – angered many conservationists.
“Whether you agree or disagree with the decision … it is a policy taken by the government after going through a consultative process and the majority of our people support it,” said Senyatso.
Rich hunters paid a lot of money to shoot an animal – money that, according to supporters of the tourism activity, flowed through local communities.
But Botswana conservationist Map Ives questions whether hunting quotas are being issued on the basis of scientific evidence about elephant populations and their sustainability.
“I understand that hunting can be useful as an economic driver, but it has to be based on science, and unfortunately in Botswana we don’t have the financial resources or trained personnel for research on species populations,” he said.
Many Botswana elephants roam across the border into Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The four countries have called for a global ban on the ivory trade to be relaxed, as the number of claimed animals continues to increase in some regions.
Last month, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) highlighted that decades of hunting and habitat loss have largely destroyed African elephant populations.
Forest elephant species were hardest hit.
(AFP / ard)