In a widely publicized meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21, a group of government ministers presented a recommendation to the President of the Republic of Botswana to lift the four-year moratorium on hunting in that country.
The President has not issued any statement on the matter and there has been no official policy change in the status of hunting in Botswana; however, many pro-sustainable use groups hailed the recommendation as a first step toward reinstating regulated hunting as an important component of wildlife management in the country.
The subcommittee cited damage to important vegetation communities and increased human-wildlife conflict, particularly resulting from an abundant elephant population, as important reasons for considering a lift of the ban.
Legal, regulated hunting was an important component of the tourism economy and wildlife management system in Botswana prior to the institution of the ban in 2014. Research has shown that rural communities in Botswana, particularly in the northern regions of the country, have suffered reduced incomes and employment opportunities since the ban was instituted.
Perhaps of greater concern is the documented development of negative attitudes among rural residents towards wildlife over that time. The recommendations to President Masisi noted these changes and expressed the potential for lifting of the moratorium to increase support for wildlife conservation in these rural communities.
The report to the President was developed after lengthy consultation with stakeholders in Botswana, including community groups, conservation NGOs, and representatives from the hunting industry.
In addition to lifting the 2014 ban on hunting in Botswana, the report recommends that a legal framework be established to support a regulated safari hunting industry, that game ranches be used as buffers between protected areas and communal areas, and that several options to mitigate wildlife damage to communities be considered.
Most controversially, the recommendations also include the option of limited elephant culling in problem areas. According to the 2016 IUCN Elephant Status report that SCI Foundation helped fund, Botswana has the largest elephant population in the world, at over 130,000, and human-elephant conflict was a primary concern in consideration of the hunting ban.
President Masisi will now consider the recommendations in the report and consult with his cabinet before any official policy changes are made. SCI and SCIF recognize the value of carefully regulated hunting in supporting wildlife conservation and rural livelihoods and respect the decisions of Botswana regarding the best ways to manage their abundant wildlife resources.