GABORONE, May 26– President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi on Saturday defended the country’s policy to lift a ban on elephant hunting amid international criticism.
“After extensive consultations with local communities, scientists, and leaders of neighboring African states, we decided on a course of action that embodies three guiding principles — the need to conserve Botswana’s natural resources, the need to facilitate human-wildlife co-existence, and the need to promote scientific management of the country’s elephants and other wildlife species,” Masisi said in a statement.
Statistics indicate that Botswana’s elephant population has been rising from 50,000 or so in 1991 to more than 130,000 currently.
Masisi highlighted that with elephants moving out of their usual range in search of food and water, there has been a sharp increase in the number of dangerous human-elephant interactions, one result of which has been the widespread destruction of crops, livestock, and property.
He added that in the country’s north, elephants have slashed maize yields by three-quarters.
Masisi said though the hunting ban did not cause a huge increase in the elephant population, it had allowed elephants to move with impunity into once-hazardous inhabited areas. “Thus increasing the number of human-elephant conflicts and, not incidentally, the environmental and economic challenges faced by rural people.” – XINHUA