...Of Botswana And Elephants

Yesterday ,the government of Botswana announced the lifting of the ban on wild animal hunting,much to the ado of Western conservation lobbyists including celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres who were stating how this ban suspension is going to have a detrimental impact on the population of some wild animals, specifically elephants. These statements as are not only blatantly untrue but also show the ignorance and limited intellect of these individuals who were also calling for the boycott of Botswana.

In 2014,billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen funded a project titled "The Great Elephant Census" which aimed to numerate the number of elephants in the pan African savanna. The project,which comprised of 90 scientists,six non governmental organisations and two advisory partners,took 3 years to complete and aimed at determining the trend of elephant populations over the past 10 years.

The results of the census,released in 2016,indicated,for starters, that Botswana had the biggest elephant population of all the surveyed countries,with populations in the region of around 130 thousand which is about 37% of the world's total elephant population. The results also showed that when it came to the trend of elephant populations,Botswana fell under the category of "Stable" numbers of elephants between the years 2006-2016 which was the scope of the study.

When one does the maths,because the study covered the elephant population from the years 2006 to 2016 as aforementioned,this means that Botswana elephant numbers remained stable despite the absence of the hunting ban which was only imposed in 2014, so the narrative that the hunting ban will lead to the pernicious reduction of elephant numbers lacks intellectual backing.

Also referencing the study, it is important to note that out of all the surveyed countries,Botswana had the most number of elephants and despite this number,the elephant numbers remained stable which could ascertain the efficiency of conservation measures which were in place even before the adoption of the hunting ban.

After the imposition of the hunting ban in 2014,the population of elephants in northern parts of the country exploded which took a toll on the availability of vegetation and water in their conservation areas. As a result of this absence,the elephants starting dispersing outwards in search for food and water which led to increasing cases of human-elephant conflicts.

Despite having an ecological carrying capacity of about 54 thousand elephants,because of the hunting ban,the reserved conservation areas in Botswana had upwards of 130 thousand elephants,a situation which further encouraged their dispersion closer to human settlements.

The elephants ,after eventually reaching these human settlements,destroyed water infrastructure,fields and took the lives of some of the populace. Before lifting the hunting ban yesterday,the government took a couple of measures to curb cases of human-elephant conflicts including increasing the number of boreholes in protected areas so as to reduce the elephants migration as well as driving back those who had migrated to human settlements but these measures proved ineffective as the elephant population was just too much.

The hunting ban also had an adverse economical impact on the livelihoods of communities living around these beasts. Funds set up for compensation of people involved in human-elephant conflict incidents significantly dwindled despite a surge in these cases as a result of the increasing population because of the ban.

As another result of the hunting ban,the country saw an increasing number of poaching cases as anti poaching resources were being stretched out by the exploding number of elephants. The ministry which overlooks the conservation of these behemoths incurred budget cuts in the years following the hunting ban which saw patrol cars being grounded because of lack of funds for fueling them. So in essence,and ironically,the hunting ban has led to more frequent cases of poaching of the same animals it was meant to protect.

In an interview with a local publication in 2016, Mike Chase (Ph.d),who lead the "The Great Elephant Census" project,explicitly stated that conservation areas like Chobe could not handle the increasing number of elephants in the long run. Although he was against the lifting of the ban,his reasons were not because it would lead to the attrition of elephant numbers but because no detailed studies exist which prove that funds acquired from hunting were trickling down to communities living with the animals.

The narrative that is currently being purported by conservation lobbyists on social media and other mediums is not only disgustingly ignorant and misinformed but also shows the standing of these individuals on the value of,or lack of, of African lives. They choose to turn a blind eye not only to the baneful effects of the surging number of elephant population but also to effective conservation measures which existed in the country before the hunting ban but instead focus on pushing for a hunting ban which has proved to be destructive not only to communities living with elephants but to the elephants themselves.

When the ban was imposed in 2014,it was classed as "temporary" because the government took into account the fact that the ban could not sustain a good balance between elephant populations and the impact of them on surrounding communities in the long run. It was eventually going to get to a point where the numbers just got too overwhelming and now that we are at that point,the government lifts the ban and instead of approaching the government with other efficient and less detrimental to human lives measures of ensuring the stability of elephant populations,these lobbyists decide to take a moral high ground and bash the country about its plan to do a "genocide of elephants".

Conservation efforts are not and should not be the sole responsibility of the government and people of Botswana. As aforementioned,the surge of elephant numbers is in part a result of their migration from neighboring countries as they runaway from poachers and nonexistent grazing areas and water sources. It would therefore be more effective for these conservation lobbyists to approach these countries with ways to improve elephant habitats so as to decrease their migration to Botswana.

So before they get into social media whilst seated in their posh houses in their bustling cities in America and Europe and proving their ignorance as well as complete disregard for African lives, these lobbyists should know that somewhere in some village in Botswana,a family has lost its entire field of crops or even the life of a family member as a result of Botswana's "very good" hunting ban. And if they could not care less about that,as it seems to be the case,they must understand that more elephants than before are falling victim to poaching as a result of this "very good conservation measure".

Instead of providing their uninformed opinions about an issue they do not seem to understand,they must first educate themselves and after that,approach people and governments of countries like Botswana and others which have large elephant populations with efficient and practical suggestions of how a balance between elephant populations and their impact on people can be achieved which will be beneficial to both parties involved. Until they do that,the government of Botswana should not be pressured by nescient and unknowing Westerners into thinking that putting the lives and livelihoods of their people first before those of animals is wrong.


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