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Botswana sold the rights to shoot 60 elephants for as much as $43,000 per animal in its first major auction since it lifted a ban on hunting last year, angering conservationists.
The rights were sold by an auction firm, Auction It Ltd., on behalf of the government on Friday in packages of 10 elephants each, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. The packages are bought by operators who then sell them on to trophy hunters at a profit. In addition to the cost of the hunting rights, the tourists must pay the fee for a professional hunter to accompany them as well as taxidermy costs.
The packages for the hunts in different parts of the country sold for between 3.6 million pula ($326,520) and 4.75 million pula, according to the document. A seventh package didn’t meet the government’s reserve price of 2 million pula.
Botswana has the world’s biggest population of elephants, with about 130,000 of the giant mammals roaming the country’s swamps and savanna.
Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Alice Mmolawa declined to comment and Auction It referred queries to the government. Moeti Batshabang, Botswana’s acting wildlife director, said he couldn’t immediately comment.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi put elephants at the center of Botswana’s politics last year as he campaigned for October elections that the ruling party won. By lifting the hunting ban on wildlife in May, Masisi broke ranks with his predecessor Ian Khama, who had garnered international praise for his conservation policies.
Farmers have complained of a growing number of incidents with elephants, which at times destroy crops and trample villagers to death. While hunting won’t meaningfully reduce the size of the elephant population, income from the sport can benefit local communities, according to the government.
Conservationists worldwide have opposed the changes, warning that tourists may go elsewhere. Tourism accounts for a fifth of Botswana’s economy.
The government has issued a quota for the killing of 272 of the animals this year, of which foreign hunters will be allowed to shoot 202 elephants and export trophies. The hunting season will last from April to September, spanning the dry winter when the African bush is thinner and animals are easier to find.
By lifting the hunting ban, Botswana has brought itself in line with its neighbors. The number of hunting licenses are below the 400 cap it set itself, and compares with 500 licenses in Zimbabwe and 90 in Namibia. Zimbabwe has the world’s second-largest elephant population.
Most trophy hunters in southern Africa come from the U.S.
(Adds the political importance of elephants from sixth paragraph)
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