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Botswana, and other southern African countries, have too many elephants
By Jacqueline Howard
BBC News

The president of Botswana has threatened to send 20,000 elephants to Germany in a dispute over conservation.

Earlier this year, Germany’s environment ministry suggested there should be stricter limits on importing trophies from hunting animals.

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi told German media this would only impoverish people in his country.

He said elephant numbers had exploded as a result of conservation efforts, and hunting helped keep them in check.

Germans should “live together with the animals, in the way you are trying to tell us to”, Mr Masisi told German newspaper Bild. “This is no joke.”

Botswana is home to about a third of the world’s elephant population – over 130,000 – more than it has space for.

Herds were causing damage to property, eating crops and trampling residents, Mr Masisi said.

Botswana has previously given 8,000 elephants to neighbouring Angola, and has offered hundreds more to Mozambique, as a means of bringing the population down.

“We would like to offer such a gift to Germany,” Mr Masisi said, adding that he would not take no for an answer.

Animal rights groups argue that trophy hunting – shooting an animal and then taking its head or skin back home as a trophy – is cruel and should be banned.

Germany is the EU’s largest importer of African elephant trophies, and hunting trophies overall, according to a 2021 report by the Humane Society International.

Botswana banned the practice in 2014, but lifted the restrictions in 2019 after facing pressure from local communities.

The country now issues annual hunting quotas, saying that it provides a good source of income for local people, so they are less tempted to poach wild animals, and that it is licensed and strictly controlled.

It has previously considered using elephants for pet food.

A spokeswoman for the environment ministry in Berlin told the AFP news agency that Botswana had not raised any concerns with Germany on the matter.

“In light of the alarming loss of biological diversity, we have a special responsibility to do everything to ensure the import of hunting trophies is sustainable and legal,” she said.

The ministry, however, remained in talks with African countries affected by import rules, including Botswana, the spokeswoman said.

Australia, France and Belgium are among countries that have banned the trade in hunting trophies.

In March, UK MPs voted to support a ban on importing hunting trophies, but the legislation has further scrutiny to pass before becoming law.

A pledge to ban the import of hunting trophies was included in the Conservatives’ 2019 general election manifesto.

Botswana, along with its neighbours Zimbabwe and Namibia, has also argued that it should be allowed to sell their stockpiles of ivory so it can earn money from its huge numbers of elephants.

Countries in East Africa, as well as animal rights groups, have opposed this saying it would encourage poaching.

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