Botswana has lifted the ban on Elephant Trophy Hunting. There is outrage across the world, especially among conservationists.
At face-value, activists have a case, but a closer look at the merits of the matter show that Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi is on the right track.
Botswana Elephant Trophy Hunting Conflict | Related Events
Elephant Trophy Hunting Fake News?
In September 2018, 87 carcasses of elephants surfaced in Botswana, according to the BBC. The source of information is the NGO Elephants Without Borders.
It is important to note that Elephant Without Borders is the only source of news which no one verified. Related footage has not been released and is not visible anywhere on the internet. The lack of evidence makes the story hard to believe.
According to Elephants Without Borders, poaching activity is only possible because Masisi’s government has disarmed the eco-guards. The NGO blames the government.
Note that the eco-guards cannot use heavy weapons but can use smaller guns. The eco-guards used heavy artillery illegally before with the blessing of Ian Khama himself.
Another fact is that the Botswana Defence force is assisting the eco-guards with conservation efforts using heavy firearms. I will expand on these issues.
Ian Khama’s Interest’s Clash With Elephant Trophy Hunting
Tshekedi Khama owns Seleka Springs which supplies firearms to the Botswana Defence Forces and the eco-guards. Do you see how I am connecting the dots?
Elephants Without Borders gets funding from a company called Wilderness Safaris. Ian Khama owns part of Wilderness Safaris.
The importance of this company is that it operates luxury camps on bushmen land, without their agreement. Luxury camps are a source of conflict between Ian Khama and the Bushmen.
Masisi’s of Botswana refutes the claims made by Elephants Without Borders and claims that most of the elephants that had died had done so because of natural causes. The government found 58 carcasses.
What we learn here is that an NGO with links to Khama shares information that it does not back up. My theory is that Khama is not happy that Masisi has reintroduced Elephant trophy hunting.
We love to see elephant numbers thrive but not at the expense of the human population. Large numbers of elephants in areas that cannot accommodate them destabilize biodiversity and the people sharing the same land. Conflicts between elephants and human beings in Botswana are on the increase.
Let us establish if President Masisi has a point.
Masisi’s Argument For Elephant Trophy Hunting
1) The Elephant Population In Botswana Is Too High
In a single Botswana park, Chobe, there are seven times more elephants than the environment can support. The animals now threaten biodiversity and other species.
If their numbers do not decline, they will suffer and die themselves. Elephants double their numbers about every ten years, and like other grazing animals, they must have predators if their herds are to remain healthy.
Zimbabwe, with 390 000 square kilometers of space, and a population of 16.53 million people, has 83000 elephants. Reports say Zimbabwe can only sustain 45 000. Zimbabwe promotes elephant hunting as a result and earns roughly 15 million United States Dollars a year from the activity.
Masisi is justified in opening up the hunting if there are no other viable options. Ceteris Paribus simple math shows that the whole country of Botswana can only sustain 70000 beasts. In contrast, it has over 160000 elephants. All of these elephants are in the conservation areas that cover roughly 40% of the country (240000 square kilometers).
Other Countries Like South Africa Are Sterilizing Elephants
“Although African elephant populations are under pressure. Capacities in smaller, fenced parks in South Africa are now too little. The solution is fertility control‚.” The is quote is from a South African conservationist.
Why conserve animals that are exploding in population? The issue of personal interests then comes into the picture — the question of Khama’s involvement in luxury safari and firearms that I mentioned earlier.
Conservationists Should Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is
What are the complainants, e.g., conservationists doing about the high elephant population? Yes, elephants have to survive and thrive, but if they have become too big for a location, a solution is required.
It is helpful for you to be in a distant country and talk about conservation, what about if the elephant is about to stomp you in your yard?
Allowing hunting is the fastest option right now, and Masisi is right to do so. Conservationists will then help with the other, more expensive approaches such as relocating those elephants.
Let’s analyze non-lethal ways of dealing with the elephant population for you to understand why allowing elephant trophy hunting is the best option at the moment.
Non-Lethal Methods To Prevent Elephant Trophy Hunting & Culling
To prevent elephant trophy hunting the animals relocate them to other areas. The best option would be to transfer them to areas within Africa where the elephant population has declined to near extinction levels.
Relocating elephants is a costly exercise, which is probably the reason why conservationists do not put their money where their mouth is and buy the animals, then transfer them.
Elephants have been relocated in Africa before in Malawi and South Africa. 500 and approximately 2000 beasts were transferred in the two countries respectively. The relocations are a testament to the fact that it is possible, so my question is, why has this not happened?
My research shows that transporting elephants over long distances is very expensive, ranging from a few thousand dollars to 50000 United States Dollars to move one animal.
The cost of relocating animals is why we have not seen conservationists do more than protest and condemn the activities of African countries like Botswana concerning Elephants.
Chemical Based Interventions To Control Elephant Populations
Castration Of Bull Elephants
Chemical castration involves the suppression of testosterone through hormone treatment.
Male elephants have received this treatment for the first time in South Africa, and the process has proven to be remarkably successful. A series of injections shrink bull elephant’s testes by over 60 percent, causing their sperm production to decrease significantly.
More research regarding the ongoing viability of the treatment is required before it can be rolled out extensively across the continent, however, and researchers are yet to determine the effect of therapy on younger males, where early hormone treatment could adversely affect the development of their sexual organs.
Performing Vasectomies On Elephant Bulls
Vasectomies result in permanent sterilization of sexually mature males without affecting testosterone production or musth cycling.
Male elephants receive the procedure in several reserves across South Africa, but to date, only one long-term (≥ 10 years) monitoring and research program exist, at the Pongola Game Reserve.
Based on observations at this site, vasectomies do not have any behavioral consequences for treated males.
However, we do not know the effects on testosterone levels in younger males, and the continuation of behavioral studies is required to identify any longer-term implications like reversibility.
Porcine Zola Pelucida for Female Elephants
Porcine zona pellucida is an immunocontraceptive vaccine that is delivered by intramuscular injection to female elephants, usually via remote darting.
The non-hormonal vaccine works to prevent pregnancy by stimulating antibodies against proteins vital for fertilization. It does not affect the hormone balance of the elephant.
Studies measuring the efficiency and effects of PZP on elephant families and populations have success rates of at least 95%.
The effects are reversible over the current 16-year study period, with no side effects on pathology, histology, or elephant behavior.
Based on knowledge derived from this ongoing study, this method is considered an effective and safe way to limit elephant population growth, when it is part of a long-term, predefined management plan.
However, PZP is not yet licensed by the Medicines Control Council for use in elephants in South Africa or anywhere else.
Using GnRH On Elephants
GnRH is a vaccine that is commercially available under prescription in South Africa. It neutralizes endogenous GnRH and therefore reduces the production of all androgen hormones, including testosterone.
Studies in male elephants show a significant reduction of testosterone after the second booster and a considerable decrease of testicular and accessory sex gland sizes.
Reports from captive studies suggest reduces musth- (testosterone-) related aggression, but further studies correctly measuring changes in musth aggression are required.
Furthermore, its effects on wild (non-captive) elephants are not known. It is unclear if this method is reversible, or what duration of treatment is optimal if reversal may subsequently be required, but feminization of males has occurred in those treated prepubertally.
It is clear that culling or reintroducing elephant trophy hunting is the only viable option for the Tswana at the moment. We can debate about all these untested methods, but the Tswana villagers need a solution now.
2) The Khoisan Are Made To Relocate To Make Way For Luxury Safari
The land reserved for conservation is the ancestral home of the Khoisan. Government has now stripped them of their livelihood and source of food.
The Khoisan suffer from arrest and abuse when they hunt in protected land. The Khoisan are not threatening the existence of these animals. The main issue is that they are affecting the investments by foreigners in luxury safari.
Ian Khama has investments in luxury safari, and as a result rallies with the foreigners in developing more areas of conservation.
The Khoisan, while resisting abuse, clash with armed eco-guards and come out worse.
3) Human Rights Problems Associated With Fortress/Militarized Conservation
Large conservation organizations fund militarize conservation. In militarised conservation eco-guards arm themselves to reduce poaching.
The result is the persecution of locals and extrajudicial killings. The so-called poachers do not get a chance to defend themselves in court.
A shoot on sight policy is in existence in Botswana, which represents human rights violation at a high level.
Tshekedi Khama supplies weapons to the Botswana Defence Force. It is easy to see how Ian Khama supports militarized conservation as it furthers his family interests.
President Masisi’s move to disarm the eco-guards is good for the rural folk and the Bushmen. The consequent loss of elephants to poachers is a small price to pay at the moment as there is overpopulation. Sell the animals instead.
Could Masisi Be Positioning Himself With Rural Folk For Elections
Rural people find Masisi appealing for reintroducing elephant trophy hunting. It reduces their encounters with deadly elephants. Elephant trophy hunting opens up opportunities for them as guides.
Militarized conservation has encroached into Bushmen land. As a result, elephant trophy hunting reduces the amount of conflict with eco-guards. Fewer guns mean fewer killings.
Disarmed eco-guards mean they assist in poaching if they want to. Not the right way to earn income but an incentive that will make them vote for Masisi.
Masisi’s ulterior motive for reintroducing elephant trophy hunting is not a particularly strong point considering the points in support of his move.
Conclusion – Masisi Is Justified For Reintroducing Botswana’s Elephant Trophy Hunting
As you can see President Masisi is mostly correct for his move to reintroduce Botswana’s Elephant Trophy Hunting. There are too many elephants that are affecting the biodiversity of the areas in which they are living.
I agree it is not pleasant to see the lovely animals die, but the needs of the villagers and the environment are more immediate. Until the other options that I have discussed become viable, we have to shed some tears for the elephants.
Let me know what you think of my views on the topic below.