Elephant Hunts to Start in Botswana at Likely Discount to Rivals

  • Botswana government to sell rights to shoot 158 elephants
  • Country has courted controversy by lifting hunting ban in May

is reintroducing elephant hunts and is likely to sell licenses to kill the animals at a discount to its neighbors. That could further inflame the controversy that’s threatening a $2 billion tourism industry after a five-year ban on hunting was lifted.

The government will auction licenses to hunting operators for the right to shoot an elephant but is yet to decide on the minimum price it will set, said Kitso Mokaila, the country’s environment minister. Botswana will allow the killing of 158 elephants in trophy hunts this year.

An additional administrative fee of 20,000 pula ($1,834) for each of 72 elephant hunting licenses designated for foreigners has already been agreed on, according to government documents seen by Bloomberg. In neighboring Zimbabwe, the right to shoot an elephant costs at least $21,000.

Conservationists worldwide have opposed the plan, warning that tourists may go elsewhere.

“It’s a very reasonable price,” said Dries van Coller, president of the Professional Hunters Association in South Africa. “They would rather proceed with caution, and see how it goes.”

President Mokgweetsi Masisi put elephants at the center of the Botswana’s politics ahead of October elections, breaking ranks with his predecessor Ian Khama, who imposed the hunting ban and garnered international praise for Botswana’s wildlife policies.

Still, by lifting the hunting ban earlier this year, Botswana has brought itself in line with its neighbors. The number of hunting licenses are below the 400 cap it set itself, and compares with 500 licenses in Zimbabwe and 90 in Namibia. In South Africa, foreign hunters generated 1.95 billion rand ($133 million) in 2017.

To read more about the lifting of the hunting ban click here

Less than 50 elephants are shot in South Africa annually and Zambia has allocated 37 licenses for this year.

The all-in cost of an elephant hunt typically involves several hundred dollars a day for the professional hunters who accompany the tourists, as well as accommodation and taxidermy fees. Hunts can last 10 to 18 days on average. Most trophy hunters in southern Africa come from the U.S.

“We want to start off cautiously and steadily to see if all that we want under the guidelines can be done properly,” Mokaila said. The sales will start soon, he added.

Tourism, mainly in the form of photographic safaris around the country’s Okavango and Chobe reasons, accounts for a fifth of Botswana’s economy.

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