Botswana to start issuing trophy hunting licences in December

Gaborone (Botswana) (AFP) –


Botswana's president announced on Monday the government will by December start issuing trophy hunting licences after it controversially scrapped a five-year ban on the practice, and angered international conservationists.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi's government in May removed the moratorium, just a year after he suceeded Ian Khama, an avid environmentalist, who had introduced a blanket hunting ban in 2014 to reverse a decline in the population of wild animals.

The removal of the ban was praised by local communities but derided by conservationists and ignited political friction between the Khama and Masisi.

Botswana fended off criticism of its decision, saying the move would not threaten the elephant population.

"Quotas will be issued by December 2019 to allow for marketing ahead of the 2020 hunting season," Masisi said in his first state of the nation address since he was elected into office following last month's polls.

"It is expected that hunting will contribute significantly to reducing the human-wildlife conflict by creating viable and balanced populations," he said.

Masisi said his government is developing guidelines "to provide direction on hunting," he added.

The commercial hunting season opens in April.

In an interview with AFP in October, Masisi defended his decision to remove the ban on hunting saying Botswana has a capacity to carry "50,000 (elephants) and we have in excess of 130,000".

In an interview with AFP last month, Khama called Masisi's decision to lift the ban as "short-sighted".

"He thought he would be popular," said Khama.

"When you have a resource, even if it's diamonds, the more you have the better and that's the approach we took with wildlife, that here is a resource that we have, so let us grow the resource, make it viable," added Khama.

Khama said tourist numbers had declined 15 percent since the ban was lifted.