//Botswana to hold elephant hunting auctions

Botswana to hold elephant hunting auctions

Botswana is to hold its first auctions for the right to hunt elephants since lifting a ban last year.

The country has some 130,000 elephants, the world’s largest population.

Authorities will issue seven hunting “packages” of 10 elephants each, confined to “controlled hunting areas”, a spokeswoman said.

The government revoked a 2014 ban in May, saying human-elephant conflict and the negative impact on livelihoods was increasing.

The lifting of the ban has been popular with many in local communities but criticised by conservationists.

Seven packages of 10 elephants each are on offer and the auction will take place in the capital Gaborone on Friday afternoon, the BBC’s Southern Africa correspondent Nomsa Maseko reports.

The bidders – who must be companies registered in Botswana – are expected to put down a refundable deposit of 200,000 pula ($18,000; £14,000).

The government has issued a quota for the killing of 272 elephants in 2020.

The hunting would help areas most impacted by “human wildlife conflict”, wildlife spokeswoman Alice Mmolawa told the AFP news agency.

Many rural communities believe a return to commercial hunting will help keep the elephant population away from their villages, and also bring in much-needed income in places not suitable for high-end tourism.

But critics fear it could also drive away luxury-safari goers opposed to hunting.

Audrey Delsink, Africa’s wildlife director for the global conservation lobby charity Humane Society International, called the auctions “deeply concerning and questionable”.

“Hunting is not an effective long-term human-elephant mitigation tool or population control method,” she told AFP.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s predecessor Ian Khama introduced the ban in 2014 to reverse a decline in the population of wild animals.