Botswana’s Wildlife authorities respond to international backlash over
Thobo Motlhoka, The Independent
May 6, 2022
Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has responded
to criticism about the recent killing of prominent ‘big tusker’ elephants.
Hunter Leon Kachelhoffer attracted international attention recently after
posting a picture of himself kneeling next to a big tusker he had just
killed in Botswana. Former president Ian Khama led the criticism, calling
the country’s leadership ‘incompetent and poor’.
“This was one of the largest if not the largest tuskers in the country. An
elephant that tour operators constantly tried to show tourists as an iconic
attraction. Now it is dead,” Khama wrote on his Facebook account.
Peter Bantu, an administrator at Tcheku Community Trust, which sold the
right to hunt the elephant to Kachelhoffer, indicated that there was
nothing untoward as far as the killing of the bull.
“At this rate, what we can say is that there was nothing wrong about
killing the elephant. The proceeds from the sale of this bull will benefit
the community,” he said.
According to Bantu, when members of the community benefit from such
proceeds, they have a sense of ownership of elephants and actively
participate in anti-poaching activities.
DWNP Director, Dr. Kabelo Senyatso, also dismissed perceptions about the
diminishing numbers of big tuskers. He says a remarkable feature of the
Botswana hunting data from 1996-2013 has shown that the proportions of
tusks of different sizes taken in the Controlled Hunting Areas (CHAs) over
15 years of hunting remained constant from year to year.
Speaking to Sunday Standard this week, Senyatso said: “This finding is
highly significant and sheds light on the good management approach while
highlighting misinformed beliefs that sport hunting is targeting only older
Senyatso says Botswana’s hunting quota is an economically viable, evidence-
and science-based process. Specifically for elephants, Dr. Senyatso says
the hunting quota allocation is based on several factors as explained in
the Botswana National Elephant Management and Action Plan 2021 to 2026.
The Management Plan aims to conserve optimal elephant populations while
ensuring habitats and biodiversity are maintained and the presence of
elephants contributes to local economies and national development. It also
aims to minimize elephants’ negative impacts on rural livelihoods. It aims
to maintain viable populations of elephants in Botswana through minimal
interference and where necessary by adaptive management.
The Plan also hopes to ensure elephant populations do not adversely impact
biodiversity conservation goals and community livelihood goals, as well as
involving all stakeholders in the realization of the full economic
potential of elephants and other wildlife resources outside protected
areas, through their sustainable utilization.
Botswana often cites hunting as one way to mitigate human-wildlife
conflicts, but what is the extent of human-wildlife conflict in the
country? The DWNP Director says rural communities (in Botswana and across
KAZA) living within the expanding elephant range are increasingly exposed
to loss of crops, damage to water-points and fences as well as human
“Measures taken by the Government of Botswana to reduce conflict include
construction of electric fences and the use of deterrents, while
compensation for elephant damage was increased by 100% with effect from
He says tolerance towards elephant damage varies depending on mitigating
circumstances such as benefits from wildlife accruing to communities, and
whether communities are used to living with elephants or not.
The lifting of the hunting moratorium in 2019, the DWNP says, is expected
to increase community tolerance for elephants through employment, cash and
other in-kind benefits.
“In Botswana there is relatively little overlap between elephants and
people but where there is overlap, elephants can make their presence felt
strongly. Often only a small proportion of elephants are involved but
property losses can be costly and can severely impact rural livelihoods.”
Botswana spends approximately US$ 2.4 million (GBP 1.9 million) annually as
compensation for wildlife damage. Dr. Senyatso says legal hunting assists
the government to replenish its coffers.
Almost half of all human-wildlife conflicts in Botswana are attributable to
elephants, while elephants account for the vast majority of people killed
by wildlife in Botswana. The fatalities have in the past averaged 14 deaths
per annum with an average of five people killed by elephants per year for
the decade between 2010 to 2020 (i.e. a total of 48 human lives lost to
Tourism safari hunting is known to provide economic benefits for local
communities around the hunting areas. In 2011 alone, before the hunting
moratorium, Hunting Operators in just seven Controlled Hunting Areas (CHAs)
provided direct employment opportunities to at least 250 people.
Hunting operations are one of the highest employers of non-skilled rural
people. Funds from the auctions of Special Elephant Quotas accrue to the
Conservation Trust Funds (CTFs). The funds from the CTF support elephant
conservation and community livelihood projects.
In December 2021, over BWP 24 million (GBP 1.6m) was raised from the
auction of 70 elephants as part of the Special Elephant Quotas, funds which
are usually re-invested into conserving elephants and supporting community
livelihoods in the elephant range.
DWNP Director Dr. Senyatso says hunting operators’ presence during the
hunting season is a proven deterrent for illegal activities, including both
commercial and subsistence poaching.
“Most hunting operators also maintain a skeleton staff during the
off-season, and so this anti-poaching benefit is realized not only during
hunting season, but throughout the entire year.”
Recent media reports also raised concerns about a ‘fear zone’ for elephants
to use intended wildlife corridors as part of the Kavango Zambezi
Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA). The five KAZA partner states
include Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Dr. Senyatso however says it is important to note that hunting of all
wildlife, including elephants, is not allowed in any of Botswana’s national
parks and game reserves. He added that it is limited to areas designated as
Wildlife Management Areas and other managed areas designated as controlled
hunting areas to ensure protection of the majority of the wild population
which lives outside Protected Areas.
“Secondly, the concern about ’fear zones’ is noted, but perhaps overstated,
in view of the fact that hunting does not happen across all of a particular
Controlled Hunting Area as most of these
CHAs have localized land-use plans that disaggregate hunting from
non-hunting areas at a concession-scale.”
Senyatso said the approach to separate hunting from non-hunting areas at a
local scale ensures Botswana and KAZA TFCA Partner States commitment to
promoting coexistence within shared wildlands between people and wildlife.
“It is for this reason that the idea of Wildlife Dispersal Areas has been
promoted across KAZA and serves as the rallying geographical space for
coordinated interventions in natural resources management, tourism
development, infrastructure development, human wildlife conflict and
community development (with a strong focus on conservation friendly
livelihood options) – all in the interest of fostering greater
co-existence. There are six Wildlife Dispersal Areas across
KAZA TFCA, and the Partner States are working tirelessly to ensure that
wildlife movement across dispersal areas, and the linked socio-economic
benefits, are sustained in the long-term.”