20 June 2019

Botswana: Killing Elephants in Botswana Is a Vote-Catcher That Could Go Badly Wrong

opinion

Elephants have become a hot political issue in Botswana, with President Mokgweetsi Masisi beating the hunting drum, a sure vote-catcher in rural communities. But the country, which has the world's biggest and most secure elephant population - more than 130,000 - could be staring down the barrels of the poachers' guns.

For small-scale farmers, elephants can be a danger and a damn nuisance. So when Botswana's new president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, was looking for rural votes to boost his flagging party in the upcoming elections, calling in the guns was low-hanging fruit. For rural communities, shooting crop raiders, jobs for skinners and a pile of meat the size of an elephant was very attractive.

Politically it was a smart move and got everyone's attention. Masisi clearly wasn't just outgoing president Ian Khama's handpicked successor, but his own man. In every other respect, however, the timing was terrible and the unintended consequences are still rippling outwards.

By chance, Masisi's move to end the hunting ban coincided with a report by the NGO Elephants Without Borders (EWB), which found serious poaching in the north of the country. Given the massive poaching in Africa, it said an escalation in Botswana, with 130,000 elephants, was...

Botswana

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