The Botswana Wildlife Producers Association, a group that focuses on the conservation and management of the country's wildlife, says placing electronic tracking collars on big tusk elephants could help prevent indiscriminate hunts. The idea follows the recent killing of a so-called big tusker during a sanctioned hunt, which sparked outrage among conservationists.
The association’s chief executive, Isaac Theophilus, said while his organization is satisfied that the hunt of bull elephants is being handled properly, tracking some big tusk elephants could help.
An electronic elephant collar helps keep track of the animal so that unsanctioned hunts of these animals for their tusks can be prevented.
“The hunt from the point of view of the association is that it was perfectly legal,” Theophilus said. “We are happy with the size of the trophy that was harvested, and we are glad we still have such big tuskers. Going forward, the association would like to work hand-in-hand with [the] government to ensure that we monitor elephant populations out there. Go out there and collar a few of the so-called big tuskers and follow them to ensure that they are not harvested or anything like [that].”
Theophilus contended the criticism of Botswana’s decision to reintroduce hunting in 2019 is unjustified. The southern African country recently opened its annual hunting season, which ends in September.
“The issue might have attracted criticism from certain quarters that do not value Botswana’s conservation efforts,” he said. “This particular hunt is a very good tusker. We should as a country be very appreciative that our conservation efforts are bearing fruit. We still have big elephants in the conservation areas, particularly in the concession areas and in the parks, where no hunting is done.”
Local professional hunter Randy Motsumi said hunters always target old bulls with big tusks, which is what their clients demand.
“Mostly the hunters are looking for big bulls, which are old and no longer breeding,” Motsumi said. “If natural death could have occurred, who would have benefited? No one would have benefited. The animal was going to rot in the bush. Now hunters have shot a bull and it has fed more than 700 people. There is money in the government coffers and the community got employed. All these people have gained from only one big elephant that is no longer breeding.”
Conservationist Map Ives said shooting big elephants is what drives the hunting industry.
“It is truly an impressive elephant, and the hunting of large tusks elephant is very much at the core of what the hunting industry is selling to its customer base in the United States in particular,” Ives said. “That is what the professional hunting industry is all about; is to find the biggest, largest animal because they have lists and books of records, and everybody wants to be in that book of records and publish a story about him."
Among critics of the decision to gun down a big tusk elephant is British Conservative Party Member of Parliament Roger Gale. He argued that tourists pay for photographic safaris to see the big tuskers, and he is opposed to Botswana's decision to reintroduce trophy hunting.
But Botswana government spokesperson William Sentshebeng says Gale seeks to undermine Botswana’s pragmatic and sustainable conservation policy.
While elephant populations are declining elsewhere on the continent, Botswana has seen its herd grow to more than 130,000, while the most it can support is estimated at 55,000.