Botswana threatens to send 20,000 elephants to Germany in trophy hunting dispute

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi threatened to send 20,000 elephants to Germany amid a dispute over the import of hunting trophies.

“Twenty thousand elephants for Germany, this is not a joke,” Masisi told the German tabloid Bild.

The African leader criticized the German government – ​​particularly the Environment Ministry – for attempting to ban the import of trophies despite the “overpopulation” of elephants in Botswana.

Earlier this year, Germany’s Environment Ministry, led by the Green Party’s Steffi Lemke, raised the possibility of stricter limits on the import of hunting trophies due to concerns about poaching.

Masisi told Bild that Germany’s Green Party could learn to live with elephants without having to hunt them.

”It is very easy to sit in Berlin and have an opinion on our affairs in Botswana. “We are paying the price to preserve these animals for the world – and even for Lemke’s party,” Masisi said.

Germans should try to “live with animals, the way you tell us to do,” he added.

According to Masisi, Botswana’s elephant population has increased to around 130,000.

To address “overpopulation” of animals in the country, Botswana has already offered 8,000 elephants to Angola and another 500 to Mozambique, Masisi said, adding that Mozambique has not yet collected the elephants.

“We would like to offer that gift to Germany,” Masisi told Bild, adding that he “wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

Botswana’s president argued that conservation efforts have led to an explosion in the elephant population and that hunting is an “important means of keeping them under control.”

Masisi said elephants trampled people to death, ate crops and caused damage to villages, and that a ban on the import of hunting trophies would only impoverish Botswana.

Masisi stated that his country does more to protect wildlife “than any other country in the world” and invited the German minister to inspect wildlife protection in his country.

CNN has contacted Botswana’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism for comment.

The southern African nation banned trophy hunting in 2014 to help dwindling elephant numbers recover from poaching and shrinking habitats.

But the ban was lifted in 2019 after pressure from local communities, and Botswana now issues annual hunting quotas.

Botswana has not raised any concerns with the German government on this matter, a German Foreign Ministry spokesperson told reporters at a regular press briefing on Wednesday.

And German Environment Ministry spokeswoman Iris Throm said the ministry was still in talks with African countries affected by the import rules, including Botswana.

According to the ministry, Germany is one of the largest importers of hunting trophies in the European Union, and African hunting trophies already require import authorization under current rules.

Figures from Germany’s Federal Agency for Nature Conservation show that in 2023 the country imported 26 African elephant hunting trophies out of a total of almost 650.

The ministry is in talks with the EU about stricter import restrictions that focus on expanding the list of protected species, Throm added.

Mary Rice, executive director of the NGO Environmental Investigation Agency, told CNN that Masisi’s promise is a “pretty empty threat” and “it’s not clear what he would achieve if it were even remotely possible.”

But the dispute is related to broader issues surrounding trophy hunting, according to Rice.

“Regardless of whether you are for or against hunting as a conservation tool, the hunting industry – such as it is – needs to get its house in order,” he said.

“It is largely self-regulated, lacks transparency and is open to dishonest behavior,” Rice added.

Masisi’s interview with Bild comes after Botswana’s president recently warned that an import ban on hunting trophies being debated in the UK parliament would amount to “a revival of colonial conquests” if passed.

Trophy hunting does not decrease the elephant population, Masisi told broadcaster Sky News.

The country is “not even close” to the quota of 400 elephants per year allowed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals from the wild. threats of international trade. , he added.

Masisi said it would be “abhorrent” if a ban were passed in the UK, calling it “condescending”.

“I find it incomprehensible that one would be horrified at the protection of some people’s livelihoods (rural, poor people, who have allowed 40% of the country to be set aside for conservation) when they defend themselves,” Masisi said.

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