Botswana auctions licenses to hunt 70 elephants in effort to reduce conflict with humans

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Licenses to hunt 70 elephants were auctioned off Friday in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, less than a year after the government there lifted a five-year-old hunting ban in hopes of reducing human-elephant conflict, after the conservation effort led to an increase in the pachyderm population.

The auction was not open to reporters, and organizers refused to speak about it when contacted. Participants put down deposits of about $18,000 each for a seat.

Wildlife hunting is a controversial topic in Africa, with critics saying that the income governments get from licensing the killing of threatened species such as elephants does little to expand wider conservation efforts. Bot­swana’s former president, Ian Khama, was a renowned opponent of elephant hunting, and he instituted a ban that was at odds with all five of Botswana’s neighboring countries.

A spokeswoman for Botswana’s wildlife department told the Reuters news agency that reducing clashes with elephants was part of the reason for issuing licenses in particular parts of the country. “The seven areas chosen are those most impacted by human-wildlife conflict, especially involving elephants,” Alice Mmolawa said.