Trophy Hunter Kills One of Botswana’s Largest Elephants

The bull's tusks were nearly 8 feet long.

bull elephant with big tusks
A bull elephant in Africa with big tusks.

guenterguni / Getty Images

A hunter has shot and killed one of the largest “big tusker” elephants in Botswana. 

The tusks of the bull were nearly 8 feet long and weighed more than 200 pounds, meaning they carried that much ivory. That makes it the largest elephant to be hunted in Botswana since 1996, according to the community

The bull was shot this month by a foreign visitor who paid around $50,000 for the hunt on Botswana’s northern border with Namibia, reports The Times.

Trophy hunting was banned by former president, Ian Khama, in 2014, but was lifted by his successor, Mokgweetsi Masisi, five years later. The decision to ban hunting was made after information was found that several species had population numbers declining. Hunting was still permitted on registered game ranches.

Khama spoke out after the killing.

“This was one of the largest if not the largest tusker in the country. An elephant that tour operators constantly tried to show tourists as an iconic attraction. Now it is dead,” he wrote on Facebook. “How does it being dead benefit our declining tourism due to poor policies. Our tourism is wildlife based. No wildlife means no tourism, no tourists no jobs, and no revenue stream. Incompetence and poor leadership have almost wiped out the rhino population, and now this!”

A second bull was reportedly killed a few weeks ago with a tusk weighing at least 90 pounds.

Botswana is home to the world’s largest elephant population with more than 130,000 elephants, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. However, The Times reports there are only about 40 elephants still alive with at least one tusk weighing 100 pounds.

African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana), aka African bush elephants, are classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Their population numbers are decreasing due to poaching, habitat loss, and other threats.

Reacting to the Death

Photos of the hunter with the elephant and the tusks have ignited anger and debate online. 

The group Blood Origins posted a rebuttal to some criticisms, saying, “Hunting is NOT a population control measure. Hunting is a mechanism to relieve small amounts of human wildlife conflict and provide meat and income into areas that likely have very little of both.”

The group says the elephant was killed under Botswana’s elephant management plan.

Debbie Peake, a spokeswoman for Botswana’s hunting industry, told The Times the elephant was more than 50 years old and was killed by a single shot.

“The income and meat from the hunt will make a huge difference to a community,” Peake said. She pointed out the bull had an old bullet wound which suggests “the poachers had him in their sights."

“If it had been killed by a poacher there would have been no benefit to the local community," Peake said.

Audrey Delsink, executive director of Humane Society International/Africa, said in a statement:

"It is incomprehensible that one of the last great tuskers of Africa—said to number less than 40—has been slaughtered as a trophy for a fee. There is no replacing the intrinsic value that this extraordinary, majestic being contributed to elephant society, genetics and natural history. Make no mistake—this once living icon was mowed down in the prime of his life, for the sake of a record book entry. This elephant’s death is not only a travesty on a biological scale, but an indication that man’s moral compass is in serious need of realignment.”

Many commenters online were dismayed by the killing.

“Just sickening,” wrote one on the Facebook page of Game Animals of the Past and President. “This magnificent animal would contribute far more to conservation and the economy if he were alive for us to come and marvel at him for years to come.”

View Article Sources
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