Botswana Threatens To Send 20,000 Elephants To Germany

Botswana, which has seen its elephant population grow to some 130,000 || Photo: Collected

Botswana, which has seen its elephant population grow to some 130,000 || Photo: Collected

Botswana’s president has threatened to send 20,000 elephants to Germany in a dispute over conservation.

Angered by proposals in Berlin to restrict the import of hunting trophies, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said in comments published on Wednesday that Germans should try living among elephants. He claimed that an explosion in the number of the mammals roaming his country has produced a “plague”.

Earlier this year, Germany, one of the largest importers of hunting trophies in the European Union, raised the possibility of stricter limits on imports due to poaching concerns.

Masisi told German daily Bild that hunting was an important means to keep elephant numbers in check, saying that Botswana was dealing with “overpopulation”.

The proposal put forward by the environment ministry, headed by Steffi Lemke of the Green party, met scorn from Botswana, which has seen its elephant population grow to some 130,000.

It has already offered 8,000 elephants to Angola and another 500 to Mozambique, as it seeks to tackle Masisi’s “plague”.

“It is very easy to sit in Berlin and have an opinion about our affairs in Botswana. We are paying the price for preserving these animals for the world, and even for Lemke’s party,” he said.

“This is not a joke,” the president told the newspaper. Germans should “live together with the animals, in the way you are trying to tell us to.”

“We would like to offer such a gift to Germany,” Masisi declared, adding that he would “not take no for an answer”.

Herds of elephants are causing property damage, eating crops and trampling residents, the president argued. A ban on the import of hunting trophies would exacerbate the problem and impoverish Botswanans, he claimed.

Botswana banned trophy hunting in 2014, but lifted the restrictions in 2019 under pressure from local communities. The country now issues annual hunting quotas.

A spokesperson for the environment ministry in Berlin told The Associated Press that Botswana had not raised any concerns with Germany on the matter.

The ministry, however, remains in talks with African countries affected by import rules, including Botswana, the spokesperson said.

“In light of the alarming loss of biological diversity, we have a special responsibility to do everything to ensure the import of hunting trophies is sustainable and legal,” she said.

African elephant hunting trophies already require import authorisation under current rules, she noted. Discussions within the EU about harsher import restrictions are focused on extending the list of protected species._AlJazeera.

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