Trophy Hunting in Botswana: A Tale of Declining Wildlife, Corruption, Exploitation and Impoverishment

Sep 4, 2023 | Reports

By Adam Cruise

As the passage of the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill moves to the Committee Stage of the House of Lords, a suite of amendments has been tabled for deliberation. These amendments include amending the Bill from a blanket ban to a case-by-case assessment of trophies imported into the United Kingdom based on whether they contribute to the conservation of wildlife and human economic upliftment.

For example: Amendment Clause 2(d) states that hunting imports may only be granted if:

“a hunting area where the hunting operator can demonstrate that financial or non-financial benefits of trophy hunting materially contributes to the conservation of the trophy hunted species, including habitat protection, anti-poaching measures, and support for community livelihoods.”

At face value, this appears to be equitable. Ignoring the obvious ethical dispute, if trophy hunting can be proven to benefit the conservation of wildlife and human livelihoods, then perhaps it may be a case to consider.  However, the problem in the majority of trophy hunting cases, and in most countries where trophy hunting takes place, the activity not only is wholly unable to benefit wildlife and human communities, but precipitates the opposite.

Botswana, one of the major destinations for trophy hunters, is a particular case in point.

The southern African nation has been promoted by some in the House of Lords as an example of a trophy hunting ‘success.’ So much so that a high-level delegation of government officials from Botswana, including a minister, an ambassador and a wildlife department head of authority were invited to the House of Lords in June 2023 to make a case for the benefits of trophy hunting in their country. Yet, serious questions surround Botswana’s ability to adequately regulate trophy hunting and provide any meaningful benefits for communities living among and alongside wildlife.

Field investigations, in-person interviews and literature, financial audit, international policy document reviews have been undertaken over the course of a year to assess the validity that Botswana can provide meaningful and tangible benefits to its wildlife and people. This is a summary of the results:

  • On an international level, the country has been flagged for non-compliance under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) due to its failure to submit annual reports, which provide crucial information for validating offtake of elephants for trophies for the international trophy trade. This indicates that the wildlife conservation in Botswana is not adequately managed.
  • Hunting quotas are not based on scientific data. A total quota of 356 elephants and 74 leopards are on the Wildlife Hunting Quota List for 2023. These figures are regarded as abnormally high. The list also includes zebra, buffalo, ostrich, wildebeest, kudu, eland, gemsbok, warthog, baboon, and lechwe.
  • There is evidence of widespread unethical hunting practices including over-use of already overly high quotas, fraudulent practices, corruption, baiting, and hunting near and within photographic tourism zones. As well as the deployment of aerial support to search for large tuskers and killing elephant bulls near artificial waterholes.
  • Trophy hunting activities in Botswana are forcing communities, which are expected to rely on the proceeds of trophy hunting, into a perpetual cycle of impoverishment and economic disenfranchisement. Trophy hunting obstructs the development of more meaningful activities like photographic tourism while the proceeds from trophy hunting are so miniscule that individual community members are practically receiving nothing.
  • There is also widespread evidence of corruption and mismanagement of funds generated by the Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) system in areas centred on trophy hunting as the main economic activity. The mismanagement and corruption are directly linked to trophy hunting.
  • The current government has revoked scientific research permits of organisations that have been committed to providing peer reviewed scientific data on the conservation status and ecology of elephants and suppress those that have dared to voice concern over unsustainable and unethical hunting practices.

Full report here:

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