The Botswana Wildlife Producers Association, a group that focuses on the conservation and management of the country’s wildlife, says placing electronic tracking collars on large tusked elephants could help prevent indiscriminate hunts. The idea follows the recent killing of a so-called big tusker during a sanctioned hunt, which sparked outrage from conservationists.
The association’s chief executive, Isaac Theophilus, said that if his organization was confident the hunt for bull elephants was being handled properly, tracking some large tusked elephants could help.
An electronic elephant collar helps keep track of the animal to prevent unauthorized hunts of these animals for their tusks.
“The hunt from the association’s point of view is that it was perfectly legal,” Théophile said. “We are happy with the size of the trophy that has been collected, and we are happy to still have such big defenses. In the future, the association wishes to work hand in hand with [the] government to make sure we are monitoring the elephant populations there. Go out and stick some of the so called big tuskers and follow them around to make sure they don’t get harvested or anything like that [that].”
Theophilus argued that criticism of Botswana‘s decision to reintroduce hunting in 2019 is unwarranted. The southern African country recently opened its annual hunting season, which ends in September.
“The issue may have drawn criticism from some quarters who do not appreciate Botswana’s conservation efforts,” he said. “This particular hunt is a very good tusker. As a country, we should be very grateful that our conservation efforts are paying off. We still have large elephants in conservation areas, especially in concession areas and parks, where no hunting takes place.
Local professional hunter Randy Motsumi said hunters still target old bulls with big tusks, which is what their clients demand.
“Most hunters are looking for big bulls, which are old and no longer breeding,” Motsumi said. “If natural death could have happened, who would have benefited? No one would have taken advantage of it. The animal was going to rot in the bush. Now hunters have shot a bull and it has fed over 700 people. There is money in government coffers and the community has found jobs. All of these people have taken advantage of a single large elephant that no longer reproduces.
Conservationist Map Ives said shooting large elephants is what drives the hunting industry.
“It really is an impressive elephant, and hunting large elephant tusks is at the heart of what the hunting industry sells to its clientele in the United States in particular,” Ives said. “That’s what the professional hunting industry is for; is to find the biggest animal because they have lists and record books, and everyone wants to be in that record book and post a story about it.”
Among critics of the decision to cull a large tusked elephant is British Conservative Party MP Roger Gale. He argued that tourists pay for photographic safaris to see the big tusks, and he opposed Botswana’s decision to reintroduce trophy hunting.
But Botswana government spokesman William Sentshebeng said Gale was seeking to undermine Botswana’s pragmatic and sustainable conservation policy.
As elephant populations decline elsewhere on the continent, Botswana has seen its herd swell to more than 130,000, while the maximum it can sustain is estimated at 55,000.