President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana said last week that “elephants bleed the government coffers” as “Botswana is indirectly subsidising and financing its elephant population”.
This statement came days after the government released its Hunting Ban Social Dialogue Report on elephant management, proposing lifting the trophy hunting ban, regular elephant culling, elephant meat canning for pet food, and the closure of some wildlife migratory routes.
The heated media debate that followed turned into a political feud over the sovereignty to practise wildlife management without meddling from the West, and is being used by the government as an election campaign.
A hugely inflated estimate of a supposedly growing elephant population, with figures as high as 237 000 elephants, was used by the Botswana government last year during the community stakeholders’ consultation process.
Since the Social Dialogue Report handover, a more accurate number of 130000 elephants is suddenly being used by the government and associated media.