When Botswana lifted the ban on elephant hunting earlier this year, there was widespread furore especially amongst animal rights activists. To them this was the beginning of Armageddon – a return to the old days when elephants were an endangered species. There have been numerous discussions in different fora about this but the question that I want to ask is – what should we do?
What should we do when for example a country like Botswana is carrying 140 000 elephants against a capacity 54 000. This is close to 200% of its capacity. For a country that is semi-arid, what are the environmental implications of keeping a multiplying herd unchecked?
In 2018-19, there were 17 deaths that have been reported due to human-elephant interaction in Botswana alone. We have seen incidences of elephants popping up at settlements in areas like Maun and Kasane. Should the lives of elephants be held more dear to those of humans?
There are some who have argued that there should be a safe migration corridor for the elephants to move from high-pressure areas to other areas but if you look at the proposed Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Park that includes Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, all these countries are struggling with their herds. Hwange for example has 53 000 elephants when its capacity is just 15 000. Where else would these elephants go?
We have tried culling but again this has been met with massive protests from conservationists and animal rights activists. What then should we do? We have tried translocation to countries like China but that again was met with aggressive protests.
I am asking these question so we can begin to have adult conversation over this. It is one thing to be sitting on a couch watching NatGeo then erupt in fury at the death of an elephant but it is a sad sight if you are the one to witness 50 elephants starve to death as has happened to Zimbabwe due to drought.
What should we do?