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Botswana threatens to send 20,000 elephants to Germany amidst conservation dispute

Botswana’s President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has threatened to send 20,000 elephants to Germany amidst a conservation disagreement.

Earlier this year, Germany’s environment ministry had proposed tighter restrictions on importing hunting trophies, a move President Masisi argues could impoverish his people.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said that conservation efforts had led to a surge in elephant numbers, and hunting played a role in regulating their population, BBC reported.

Germans should “live together with the animals, in the way you are trying to tell us to”, Mr Masisi told German newspaper Bild. “This is no joke.”

Botswana is home to about a third of the world’s elephant population – over 130,000 – more than it has space for.

Masesi said that due to this lack of space, herds were causing property damage, eating crops and trampling residents.

“In some areas, there are more of these beasts than people. They are killing children who get in their path. They trample and eat farmers’ crops leaving Africans hungry,” said Botswana’s wildlife minister.

To manage the population, Botswana has already relocated 8,000 elephants to Angola and is considering offering hundreds more to Mozambique.

“We would like to offer such a gift to Germany,” Mr Masisi said, adding that he would not take no for an answer.

A spokeswoman for the environment ministry in Berlin told the AFP news agency that Botswana had not raised any concerns with Germany on the matter

Last month, Botswana had a similar fallout with the British government.

Botswana’s Wildlife minister, Dumezweni Mthimkhulu threatened to send 10,000 elephants to London’s Hyde Park so British people could “have a taste of living alongside” them.

In March, UK Members of Parliament (MPs) voted in favour of a ban on importing hunting trophies. However, the legislation requires additional scrutiny before it can become law.

Trophy hunting in Africa

Usually, Botswana and other southern African nations profit from wealthy Westerners who pay for permits to hunt animals and take their head or skins home as trophies.

Botswana initially banned trophy hunting in 2014 but reversed the decision in 2019 due to pressure from local communities.

Locals argue that this revenue aids conservation and supports communities, reducing the incentive for poaching.

The country now issues annual hunting quotas, saying that it is licensed and strictly controlled.

However, animal rights groups argue that the practice is cruel and should be banned.

African countries like Botswana, along with its neighbours Zimbabwe and Namibia, have also argued that they should be allowed to sell their stockpiles of ivory so they can earn money from their huge numbers of elephants.

However, countries in East Africa, as well as animal rights groups, have opposed this saying it would encourage poaching.