Botswana threatens to send 20,000 elephants to Germany in trophy hunting dispute

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An elephant is seen at the Chobe National Park in Kalahari desert at Kasane, Botswana on October 13, 2023. According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) data, there are nearly half a million elephants around the world, approximately 90 percent of which are African elephants.



CNN
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Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi has threatened to send 20,000 elephants to Germany amid a dispute over the import of hunting trophies.

”Twenty thousand elephants for Germany, this is not a joke,” Masisi told German tabloid Bild.

The African leader criticised the German government – particularly the environment ministry – for seeking to ban the import of trophies despite Botswana’s ”overpopulation” of elephants.

Earlier this year Germany’s environment ministry, which is headed up by Steffi Lemke of the Green party, raised the possibility of stricter limits on the import of hunting trophies due to poaching concerns.

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Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the country’s elephant population has grown to 130,000.

Masisi told Bild that Germany’s Green party could learn to cohabitate with elephants without hunting them.

”It is very easy to sit in Berlin and have an opinion about our affairs in Botswana. We are paying the price for preserving these animals for the world – and even for Lemke’s party,” Masisi said.

Germans should try to “live together with the animals, in the way you are trying to tell us to,” he added.

According to Masisi, Botswana has seen its elephant population grow to some 130,000.

Murat Ozgur Guvendik/Anadolu/Getty Images

Elephants are seen on the Makgadikgadi Basin in Botswana on October 13, 2023. The landlocked southern African country has a landscape defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, which becomes a lush animal habitat during the seasonal floods.

To tackle the country’s ”overpopulation” of the animals, Botswana has already offered 8,000 elephants to Angola and another 500 to Mozambique, Masisi said, adding that Mozambique had yet to collect the elephants.

“We would like to offer such a gift to Germany,” Masisi told Bild, adding that he would “not take no for an answer.”

Botswana’s president argued that conservation efforts have led to an explosion in the elephant population, and hunting is an “important means to keep them in check.”

Masisi said that elephants were trampling people to death, eating crops and causing damage to villages, and a ban on the import of hunting trophies would only impoverish Botswanans.

Masisi claimed that his country does more to protect wildlife ”than any other country in the world,” and invited the German minister to inspect wildlife protection in his country.

CNN has contacted Botswana’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism for comment.

The southern African nation banned trophy hunting in 2014 to help declining elephant numbers recover from poaching and shrinking habitats.

But the ban was scrapped in 2019 after pressure from local communities, and Botswana now issues annual hunting quotas.

Botswana has not raised any concerns with the German government on this matter, a spokesperson for the German foreign ministry told reporters at a regular news briefing Wednesday.

And German environment ministry spokeswoman Iris Throm said that the ministry remained in talks with African countries affected by import rules, including Botswana.

According to the ministry, Germany is one of the largest importers of hunting trophies in the European Union, and African hunting trophies already require import authorization under current rules.

Figures from Germany’s Federal Agency for Nature Conservation show that the country imported 26 hunting trophies from African elephants in 2023 out of a total of nearly 650.

The ministry is in discussion with the EU on stricter import restrictions which focus on extending the list of protected species, Throm added.

Mary Rice, executive director of the NGO Environmental Investigation Agency, told CNN that Masisi’s vow is a “ rather empty threat” and it’s “unclear what it would achieve were it remotely possible.”

But the spat is linked to wider issues around trophy hunting, according to Rice.

“Regardless of whether you are for or against hunting as a conservation tool, the hunting industry – as that is what it is – needs to get its house in order,” she said.

“It is largely self-regulated, lacks transparency and is open to rogue behavior,” added Rice.

Masisi’s interview with Bild comes after the Botswanan president recently warned that a hunting trophy import ban being debated in the UK parliament would amount to “a resurgence of colonial conquests” if it passes.

Trophy hunting does not come close to diminishing the elephant population, Masisi told broadcaster Sky News.

The country does “not even come close” to the 400 elephants per year quota allowed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals from the threats of international trade, he added.

Masisi said he would be “abhorred” if a UK ban passes, calling it “condescending.”

“I find it unfathomable that you’d be horrified of the protection of ones’ livelihood – rural, poor people, who have allowed 40% of the country to be set aside for conservation – when they defend themselves,” Masisi said.

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