Botswana, home to nearly one-third of Africa's elephants, lifts hunting ban

Botswana, a country home to nearly one-third of the entire African elephant population, has reportedly lifted its ban on hunting.  

The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism said in an emailed statement on Wednesday that the country would ensure that the “reinstatement of hunting is done in an orderly and ethical manner,” according to Bloomberg News

The move comes just months after reports surfaced that the government was considering an end to its suspension on big-game hunting. Lawmakers have argued that the elephants have been creating problems for farmers, Reuters reported in February

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Botswana is home to the largest population of elephants in the world, with about 160,000, according to Bloomberg, which noted that the elephant population has triple since 1991, a trend that has led to conflicts with farmers because of their ability to destroy crops. 

Former Botswanan President Ian Khama has reportedly criticized the effort to lift the ban on hunting, saying that it's designed to earn votes from the country's rural regions and that it could have an adverse affect on tourism. 

But the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association voiced support for the move. 

“Conservation of our species is paramount, but communities’ rights and livelihoods are as important as the species itself,” spokeswoman Debbie Peak said in a text message to Bloomberg News. 

Some critics believe President Mokgweetsi Masisi's reasons for lifting the ban are political. Masisi had appointed a committee in 2018 to review a 2014 hunting ban that was put in place by his predecessor. 

The majority of Botswana's elephants live in northeast part of the country. Despite the suspension on hunting, the country was the site of what conservationists described as one of the worst elephant slaughters in recent years. 

The tusks of 87 elephants were found during a period in 2018 while a charity, Elephants Without Borders, conducted aerial surveys in the region. The Botswana government called the findings “false and misleading.”