GABORONE, BOTSWANA - Botswana held its first auction Friday for elephant hunting rights since lifting a five-year hunting ban last May.
The move was prompted by the country's elephant population which, at 130,000, is the world's largest.
Officials held an auction for seven hunting "packages." Each package entitles the buyer to hunt and kill 10 elephants during the 2020 hunting season, from April to September.
A company known as Auction It, which operated the sale on behalf of the government, said the auction Friday had "gone well," as six of the seven packages were sold. Reporters were not allowed to watch, but the auctioneer told VOA the event brought in a total of $250,000.
Local professional hunter Randy Motsumi welcomed the auction, saying hunters were left "jobless" after the 2014 decision to ban trophy hunting.
"I am very much excited, more so that the hunting ban came without consultation. You know the feeling of losing a job without the government telling you you are going to lose your job? I am excited to get my job back, not me only but communities out there will survive through this," he said.
Neil Fitt of the Kalahari Conservation Society said the number of auctioned elephants was not too significant.
"The number of animals, which are up for sale through the auction, in my opinion will not damage the viability of our elephant population in Botswana," he said. "We are talking about 70 compared to plus or minus 130,000."
He added there is need for a code of conduct for professional hunters to avoid incidents, such as the shooting of a monitored, collared elephant last year.
"We definitely need a proper and up-to-date 21st century code of ethics for the hunting fraternity that includes professional hunters, to get them to sign up a fairly heavy code of conduct to ensure that we do not have abuse or different incidents like the one last year," Fitt said.
Other conservationists have criticized the auction, saying Africa's once-thriving elephant population has dropped far too low after years of excessive hunting and poaching.
But Botswana says the decision to reintroduce trophy hunting is to reduce human-wildlife conflict, and also ensure communities benefit from wildlife resources.