Botswana allows hunting of 287 elephants
Botswana's authorities have issued 287 elephant-hunting licences as the hunting season resumed after it was suspended last year due to the pandemic.
Hunters may shoot 287 elephants this season, Director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Kabelo Senyatso said in an interview.
The hunting season runs from April 6 to September 21.
Botswana had banned hunting in 2014 but lifted the ban in 2019. However, hunting was then interrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19, leading some international hunters to pull out.
Senyatso defended Botswana's decision to allow hunting and issue licences, saying the government had introduced the policy after consultation.
"The hunting of elephants and other species is a government policy which was adopted following an open process of consultation by Cabinet ministers and was supported by Batswana," he said, referring to the citizens of Botswana.
Animal rights group Future for Elephants condemned the move, saying the trophy hunting of elephants was a brutal relic of centuries past, without any justification as species become extinct.
Hunting benefits the economy, according to the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association.
"Hunting season started today and we already have clients on the ground, some coming from as far as America and other countries," spokesperson Debbie Peake said.
Peake said her association hoped that the message would spread that travel was not too difficult.
"People can come as long as they comply with the COVID-19 protocols," she told dpa.
Elephants face a further threat from poaching and conflicts over habitat. There is also growing concern that planned oil drilling will threaten the Okavango delta.
Botswana has a good reputation in Africa for conservation and animal welfare, but the lifting of the elephant hunting ban triggered international outrage among animal rights activists.
While official figures show the number of elephants is declining in many parts of Africa, in Botswana, the number has risen from about 50,000 in 1991 to 130,000, almost a third of Africa's elephant population.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails