GABORONE – Botswana plans to open up elephant hunting rights next month to attempt to boost the industry after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the business.
The southern African country is extending the rights to shoot 287 elephants during the hunting season, which begins on April 6, Bloomberg News reported. Botswana, which has the largest elephant population in the world with 130,000 elephants, will also provide licenses to kill leopards, zebras and buffaloes.
The Botswana government rescinded a 2014 ban on hunting last year. But with most hunters coming into the country from the U.S. and the pandemic interfering with international travel, the first year after lifting the suspension did not see much hunting.
Hunters also travel to Botswana from Spain, Eastern Europe and Russia.
“International clients such as those from the U.S. can come in under difficult conditions, but several European Union countries have lockdowns in place preventing travel to Botswana,” Debbie Peake, a spokeswoman for the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association, told Bloomberg News. “The industry has put in place the strictest protocols in camps and among staff to protect clients.”
President Ian Khama initiated the hunting ban in 2014 before his successor Mokgweetsi Masisi ended the restrictions, saying that the number of elephants in the country needed to be regulated because they were ruining crops and sometimes stomping on people.
Environmentalists spoke out against lifting the suspension saying such action would affect the $2 billion annual photo safari industry, according to Bloomberg.