AWF Statement on Botswana Decision to Lift Elephant Hunting Ban
AWF’s primary mission is to craft and implement strategies that conserve elephants and Africa’s other endangered wildlife species. The challenges related to wildlife conservation and viable habitat management vary dramatically from region to region and country to country. The future of wildlife, wild lands, and large landscape conservation in a changing Africa will largely be determined by the implementation of sustainable avenues for generating tangible benefits to communities that live with wildlife.
Across Africa, wildlife numbers are plummeting. While there is an impressive network of state protected areas that provide a refuge for wildlife populations, a significant proportion of wildlife exists outside protected areas where their survival is dependent on their ability to coexist with an increasing human population and the resultant demand for land, agricultural expansion, development, and urbanization.
AWF recognizes the inherent right of African governments to manage their natural resources — including wildlife and habitats — in a manner that best serves their citizens. As a long-trusted advisor to African governments, AWF is uniquely positioned to negotiate policies and decisions that conserve wildlife and wild lands.
Trophy hunting is legal in all African nations, except one — Kenya. The Government of Botswana lifted the suspension of hunting following public consultations. Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa due to successful conservation policies over the previous 30+ years. One of the challenges of sustaining a large elephant population is increased conflict with humans — over 30 people were killed in Botswana by elephants last year, and many others injured and displaced with some households left destitute due to crop damage caused by the elephants.
The Government of Botswana has high technical capacity and expertise as well as a proven track record in crafting successful conservation programs. AWF urges Botswana to commit to working with communities to implement alternative solutions (beyond trophy hunting) to address the challenges facing groups that live alongside wildlife — approaches that allow both people and wildlife to thrive in modern Africa. Further, AWF urges Botswana to consult with neighbor states with whom it shares elephants and other wildlife populations.
AWF has had a long, successful relationship with the Botswana government. We will continue to engage the government on its pledge to pursue policies that promote the conservation of wildlife and develop sustainable livelihoods of communities.
The historical debate between Africa’s governments, people, and conservation stakeholders must shift its focus on wildlife protection to one that includes realistic, sustainable economic transformation.
Conservation will only succeed if the decisions about the future of Africa’s wildlife speak to the aspirations of Africa’s governments and their people, and if these are represented in their laws and policies.