Botswana sells rights to kill 60 elephants for £30,000 per head

Botswana held its first auctions for the right to hunt elephants since lifting a ban last year.

However, experts have warned that this could be a “major global conservation disaster”.

The rights were sold by a firm known as Auction It Ltd., on behalf of the government on Friday.

The country has the largest population of elephants in the world, with approximately 130,000.

The government sold seven hunting licences on Friday, for 25.7m pula - £1.8m, or more than £30,200 each. This will allow hunters to kill 10 elephants in "controlled hunting areas".

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, tourists are required to pay the fee for a professional hunter to accompany them as well as taxidermy costs.

Some environmentalists fear licensed hunting could fuel demand for body parts and could encourage even more illegal poaching, opening the path to extinction.

Meanwhile, 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 in theory reduce the size of the elephant population, income from the sport can benefit local communities and ease the “human-elephant conflict” according to the government.

The government has issued a quota for the killing of 272 elephants during this year’s hunting season, from April to September.

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.

Botswana has brought itself in line with its neighbours after lifting the ban.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.

Africa’s elephant population has plummeted by more than two-thirds in 40 years: from 1.3million in 1979 to 415,000 in 2015, official figures show, and the species is listed as vulnerable to extinction by wildlife body the IUCN.

Most trophy hunters in southern Africa come from the US.

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