Botswana has lifted its ban on elephant hunting in a country with the world’s highest number of the animals.
The decision has been met with anger and disappointment from wildlife protection groups, who’ve warned of a possible blow to the country’s lucrative tourism sector.
The southern African nation is home to an estimated 130,000 elephants.
At the heart of the concerns of many, is the possible increase in illegal poaching of elephants for their tusks to supply the ivory trade.
“Expect mass culling next,” the CEO of WildlifeDirect, Paula Kahumbu, said in a post on Twitter, warning that the impact of Botswana’s decision will be felt across Africa.
Botswana has long been a refuge for elephants on a continent where tens of thousands have been killed over the years for their ivory, and the animals long have been a tourist draw.
Some had warned of tourism boycotts if the ban was lifted, and even American talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres joined the protest.
“President Masisi, for every person who wants to kill elephants, there are millions who want them protected. We’re watching,” she tweeted after Botswana’s decision was announced.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) May 22, 2019
Lifting the hunting ban comes amid growing conflicts between humans, particularly farmers and elephants, the government’s statement said. It said hunting will resume “in an orderly and ethical manner” but does not say how it will be regulated.
“Co-existence between wild animals and communities is the only way that wildlife populations will survive,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International.
“What a shame that Botswana, previously hailed as a shining example of wildlife conservation and a safe haven for elephants, has opted to become a promoter of trophy hunting.”