US citizens have indicated strong disapproval of the proposed lifting of the elephant hunting ban in Botswana.

This was according to the results of a poll* conducted in the US earlier this month by Remington Research Group for Humane Society International (HSI), which revealed that 78% of participants did not support the proposed culling; and 73% believed that if trophy hunting and elephant culls started, Botswana’s image as a leader in wildlife conservation would be harmed.

Second-largest source market

The US is Botswana’s second-largest international tourism source market, and only 27% of respondents said they would still consider visiting should the ban be lifted. This was in response to the question: “Assuming that you were planning to visit Africa, if the president of Botswana overturns the trophy hunting ban, would you boycott Botswana and visit another African country that does not allow trophy hunting, like Kenya?”

Botswana is popular as a photography destination, which has been benefiting the tourism industry and local communities alike. “Millions of foreign tourists travel to Botswana to shoot majestic wild animals, not with guns, but with their cameras,” said Iris Ho, HSI’s specialist for wildlife programmes and policy.

“Wildlife watching and photographic tourism are on the rise around the world,” she continues, “outstripping the revenue from trophy hunting and the number of trophy hunters by a wide margin. The current ban on trophy hunting is a win-win policy for Botswana’s economy, for the local community, and for the animals. There cannot be a more drastic shift for a country known as a safe haven for elephants to become an elephant canning factory for pet food.”

Pullquote: Surveys have also shown that many visitors choose Botswana as their safari destination specifically because of its firm anti-hunting stance.

Kitso Mokaila, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, insisted that his country would go ahead with its decision on hunting. “We will not back off and change our minds in terms of what we are going to do. As HATAB (Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana) you must remember where your bread is buttered and support us.”

In 2018, travel and tourism in Botswana saw 3.4% growth, contributing US$2.52bn or 13.4% to the country’s economy. According to HIS: “With tourism now the second-largest contributor to the country’s GDP, and a significant employer, reinstating trophy hunting and starting elephant culls could hurt the country’s economy.”

87 000 people worldwide signed HSI’s petition, asking Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi to keep the trophy hunting ban in place, and to reject plans to cull the country’s elephants. And leading tour operators have stated that the proposal goes against everything the country stands for, and its implementation would be regressive and could harm eco-tourism.

* 1 091 registered voters were surveyed, weighted to match expected turnout demographics for the 2020 General Election.