A German-based wildlife conservation group has called on the government of Botswana to reconsider the planned re-introduction of trophy hunting as doing so may only provide short-term gains without addressing the underlying causes of poaching and the human-wildlife conflict in host communities.
In a statement issued to mark World Elephant Day on August 12, Pragmatic Alternatives to Trophy Hunting (PATH) said as the last place of safety for elephants in Africa, Botswana should actively consider phasing out trophy hunting instead.
“The human-elephant conflict in Botswana will never be resolved by allowing trophy hunting or by hunting crop-raiding elephants. Nor will elephant hunting reduce the current elephant population significantly over the long term.
“On the contrary, resuming trophy hunting and allowing the hunting of crop-raiding elephants will make elephants more aggressive toward humans, increase incidents of conflict and cause a dispersal that would reduce populations currently taking refuge in Botswana. It will also lead to more poaching – not less – because traffickers will take advantage of the loopholes newly opened up,” the organisation said.
Further, PATH said while communities may be enticed to support trophy hunting due to prospects of seasonal jobs and the share of surplus meat from trophy hunts, such temporary gains will not provide long-term solutions to the poverty issues at the heart of the poaching and human-elephant crises.
“Long-term solutions must be identified to prevent human-wildlife conflict and to address some of the causes of poaching. Such solutions include surrounding national parks with protective buffer zones where no crops that attract elephants are grown, supporting communities close to game areas with eco-tourism ventures as well as creating wildlife corridors to allow for natural dispersal of elephants.
“Trophy hunting may help fund anti-poaching patrols, but it does not resolve the underlying causes of poaching. These include poverty, which drives subsistence poaching and the high demand stimulated by the legal trade in elephant tusks, rhino horn, lion bones and bush-meat,” the organisation said.
Instead of re-introducing trophy hunting, Botswana should promote long-term poverty alleviation solutions like setting up community-run conservancies and other eco-business ventures to cultivate a culture of conservation.
The organisation said wildlife-host communities remain the biggest losers of the trophy hunting business, with only a fraction of the millions paid for hunts actually going to conservation.