INTERNATIONAL - Botswana will hold a month of public hearings to decide whether it should lift a ban on elephant hunting as farmers in the nation that has the world’s largest population of the African variety of the world’s biggest land mammals complain the animals are damaging their crops.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi will meet with wildlife researchers in the northwestern town of Maun on Wednesday to mark the start of the consultations, according to an emailed government statement. The report from the hearings will be submitted to cabinet next month.
Lawmakers in June asked the government to review the ban, which was introduced by Masisi’s predecessor in 2014. Critics of the ban say elephant populations have grown rapidly and others have come from neighboring countries to seek refuge from poachers, prompting an increase in human deaths and declining incomes in farming communities as the pacyhderms encroach on cultivated land.
There are at least 130,000 elephants in the sparsely populated southern African nation, or roughly 1 per 18 citizens. The world’s second biggest population is in neighboring Zimbabwe where limited hunting is permitted and generates income through trophy fees.
Maun is a main tourist hub, with as many as 1.9 million travelers forecast to visit the nearby Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary this year. Last week, the advocacy group Elephants Without Borders said it had uncovered a massacre of 87 elephants near the delta. The government disputes the group’s claims, with Masisi saying the report was exaggerated to thwart the review of the hunting ban.
Tourism is Botswana second-biggest source of foreign exchange after diamonds.