Environmentalists have reacted in outrage at the decision of the Botswana government to lift the ban on elephant hunting. The decision comes from the nation's newly elected president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, and the Ministry of Environment. It is a sharp detour from former President Ian Khama's policies which banned the hunting of elephants back in 2014 due to population decline. Since then, the country's elephant numbers have grown to 130,000, which is more than anywhere else in Africa. Conservationists around the world have taken to social media to condemn the move and put pressure on the authorities in Botswana to reconsider.

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President Masisi's culling initiative

In May, President Masisi came under fire for gifting stools made from elephant feet to three African leaders from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The four countries have called for a lift on the ivory ban and have been joined by South Africa in this movement.

In a press release, Masisi referred to elephants as predators and recommended a regular culling of the species. In addition, he sought to establish an elephant-meat canning industry for pet food and other products. This idea was rejected due to the population status of elephants across the continent.

International Backlash

Paula Kahumbu, CEO of WildlifeDirect in Kenya, called this move "Horrific beyond imagination." She and other Conservation groups, including the German organization Pro wildlife, have taken to social media to condemn trophy hunting as archaic, unethical, and cruel. They have called for an end to the bloody sport to help preserve the future of African elephants.

Others, including the U.S.-based Safari Club International, are celebrating the return of elephant hunting.

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The government of Botswana announced on Thursday that 400 licenses will be granted each year, and that several migratory routes for wildlife, including an antelope route into South Africa, will be closed. The reason behind these closures is that the government has labeled the routes as non-beneficial.

Dwindling numbers

According to National Geographic, poachers were responsible for killing approximately 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012. In just one decade, Central Africa lost 64 percent of its elephant population to trophy hunting.

In September 2018, 87 carcasses were discovered near a protected sanctuary in Botswana. They had all been killed for their tusks. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has the African elephant on a "red list" of animals that are nearing extinction.

Despite the dwindling population, Zimbabwe claims to have sold 100 elephants to China and Dubai over the last six years for approximately $2.7 million. The country is also said to have a stockpile of ivory that is worth over $300 million.

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