Botswana has announced that it will be holding its first major auction of licenses for trophy elephant hunters.
The southern African state has the world’s largest elephant population.
Citing Auction It Ltd., Bloomberg reported that seven packages are being offered for 10 elephants each. Auction It Ltd., is operating the sales on behalf of the government.
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Interested bidders will need to put down a refundable deposit of $18,300.
Last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s government lifted the blanket ban placed in 2014 to protect the decline in the population of wild animals.
The lifting of the hunting ban was met with mixed reactions with praises from local communities and derision from conservationists.
Masisi’s government strongly defended the decision to lift the ban, observing that the elephant population would not be in jeopardy.
The government will issue seven hunting “packages” of 10 elephants each, confined to “controlled hunting areas”, a wildlife spokeswoman Alice Mmolawa told AFP on Thursday.
Mmolawa further noted that the bidding is open to “companies that are either owned by Botswana citizens or are registered in Botswana.”
She added in a text message, hunting would help areas most impacted by “human-wildlife conflict.”
Africa’s wildlife director for the global conservation lobby charity Humane Society International Audrey Delsink criticized the auctioning of the licenses, saying: “The Botswanan elephant hunting auctions are deeply concerning and questionable”.
“Hunting is not an effective long-term human-elephant mitigation tool or population control method.”
Masisi’s predecessor Ian Khama, a passionate environmentalist, also criticized the move.
“I have been against hunting because it represents a mentality (of) those who support it, to exploit nature for self-interest that has brought about the extinction of many species worldwide,” he told AFP in a phone interview.
For him allowing commercial hunting could “demotivate those who are engaged in anti-poaching, who are being told to save elephants from poachers but the regime is poaching the same elephant and calling it hunting”.