Botswana is about the size of France, but there are only 2.2 million inhabitants. With 130,000 elephants, the country is home to the world’s largest population of elephants, about one-third of Africa’s living savanna elephants.
Due to massive poaching, trophy hunting and human-elephant conflicts in the neighboring countries Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, many animals have withdrawn in recent years and migrated to the north of Botswana, where they were relatively safe so far. Due to extensive conservation measures poaching remained relatively low. Moreover, in 2014 Botswana had finished the trophy hunt on elephants.
The situation threatens to change drastically for the elephants. In the meantime, poaching is also escalating in Botswana. However, the last refuge of African elephants is also in danger for other reasons: Since the transitional president Mokgweetsi Masisi took office in April 2018, both the reintroduction of trophy hunting and regular culling are up for discussion!  The term culling hides the plan to reduce the elephant population by completely wiping out entire herds. The meat of the killed elephants is to be marketed as dog food.
Further measures envisage partially obstructing the migrations of the animals by means of fences. A deal with China is also to make Botswana the meat supplier of the People’s Republic. Wild areas will have to give way to pastureland – where cattle graze, elephants can only be in the way.
The background of this serious and for elephants disastrous measures is on the one hand the demand of some politicians that especially the so far underdeveloped regions of Botswana should receive additional income in the future by the “use” of elephants. On the other hand, this should reduce human-elephant conflicts.
The rich wildlife has helped Botswana thrive on eco-tourism and tourism. Generally, 80% of tourists come to Africa to see iconic species such as elephants. In Botswana, tourism made a direct contribution of $ 687.5 million to the economy in 2017. This represented 11.5% of gross domestic product and 76 000 jobs or 7.6% of total employment. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the country has enormous potential for further growth in this sector. For comparison, the trophy hunt in 2014 brought $ 20 million and 1,000 (seasonal) jobs.
In addition, trophy hunting for elephants, culling and the processing of elephants into dog food could severely endanger tourism: these issues certainly play a role in visitor perception. Prospective revenue from hunting and meat trade should give a presidential candidate also electoral votes – because in October 2019 is the next presidential election.
A number of excellent concepts have already been developed to solve human-elephant conflicts. An example under the keyword Ecoexist can be found here: www.ecoexistproject.org
The megapark project in the KaZa region, supported by the German Federal Government with EUR 35 million, could also contribute much to a solution. The planned gigantic park is to extend over five countries and offer the animals safe migration options. If the goals of the concept even approached, elephants could search for their way back to Angola and Zambia, instead of staying permanently in Botswana. Unfortunately, the implementation – in which the WWF is involved – so far bumpy .
Here are six more promising petitions, among others. by D. Joubert, HSI and the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos against Trophy Hunting: