SCI Helvetia Chapter - 20,000 elephants for Berlin!

20,000 elephants for Berlin!

04 April 2024

Article by Thomas Weber
published by Die Presse on 03.04.2024 (Original version: German - DeepL translation)

Lessons from the south of Africa: elephants for Germany
Botswana wants to donate 20,000 elephants to Germany because Berlin wants to ban the import of hunting trophies. On the naive romanticism of some conservationists.

"I had to read it three times before I understood it," admits Flemish author Gaea Schoeters in an interview with Die Presse: a Facebook ad that promotes trophy hunting for a rare ibex in Pakistan, but at the same time advertises that the money for the hunting licenses will go towards the conservation and protection of this very species. At first glance, this seems absurd, unless you are familiar with the principle of "conservation through use", which is how trophy hunting actually contributes to the conservation of species and habitats in many parts of the world.

This principle is also being discussed here, at the highest European level as well as in the lowlands of Vienna's peripheral and hunting areas - for example when it comes to the controversial hunting of mating capercaillie (up in the mountains) or endangered partridges (in the federal capital). At first glance, it seems perfectly logical to want to place endangered species under complete protection. Why should endangered animals be hunted?

On the other hand, hunting with a sense of proportion makes perfect sense. If huntable game is of value to the local population and landowners, they protect it and its habitat. As long as hunted animals, their meat and fur are used, this management is no longer reprehensible. "Use it or lose it", say some conservationists pragmatically. As a principle, "protection through utilization" remains as controversial as it has proven itself in many places.

Well-meaning conservationists sometimes ignore these complex relationships when they want to impose their romantic ideas on the rest of the world. Gaea Schoeters has captured the insights she has gained from fascination, shock and research in "Trophäe"; her clever, mercilessly consistent novel about big game hunting and species conservation, human rights and our still colonialist view of Africa, which was rightly celebrated at the Leipzig Book Fair. The German Federal Minister for the Environment, Steffi Lemke, has recently received an ideological gut punch for her under-complex approach to solving the problem.

"Conservationists suppress complex interrelationships when they want to impose their romantic ideas on the rest of the world."

Many people probably thought it was a belated April Fool's joke when Botswana's president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, announced in the Bild newspaper that he wanted to donate 20,000 live elephants to Germany. Because the Green Federal Minister wants to ban the import of hunting trophies, this would promote poverty and poaching in his country.

The loss of hunting tourism would not only deprive Botswana of foreign currency. The elephant population, which has recently grown to 130,000 animals thanks to successful species protection, would also be threatened because the pachyderms would lose value for the population and would only be seen as dangerous pests in agriculture. According to Bild, the Germans should "live together with the animals in the way you are trying to tell us to". As a condition, he stipulated that the 20,000 elephants must be kept "in the wild" in Germany. These would simply have to be collected.

This is not only strange, but also bitter for the minister. Especially as Germany itself is failing on many levels when it comes to species conservation on its own territory. "Bison, elk and bears cannot gain a foothold in Germany. But Federal Minister Lemke wants to dictate to Botswana and Namibia how they manage their elephants and other wild animals," states Klaus Hackländer, President of the German Wildlife Foundation and Boku Professor of Wildlife Biology and Hunting Management. The minister is driven by ideology and negates facts.

The German Federal Minister should allow herself a pause for thought on the subject of trophy hunting, perhaps read Gaea Schoeter's "Trophy"; three times if necessary.


Article by Sebastian Geisler published in BILD
on 02.04.2024
Aus Wut auf die Grünen
Botswana wants to deport 20 000 elephants to Germany


Article by Samuel Misteli, Nairobi
published by NZZ on 03.04.2024 (Original version: German - DeepL translation)

Botswana's president wants to send 20,000 elephants to Germany. Behind the joke lies anger at the image of Africa held by Western environmentalists
European countries, including Germany, want to ban the import of hunting trophies. African governments see this as neo-colonial interference - and respond with bitter humor.

It was a joke, but one with a bitter undertone. He wants to send 20,000 elephants to Germany, Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced on Tuesday via "Bild-Zeitung". The condition is that the animals are allowed to roam free. "The German weather is bad enough for them."

Botswana, on the other hand, is home to 130,000 elephants, a third of the global population. Because these elephants regularly trample fields, damage houses and attack people, Botswana lifted a hunting ban in 2019 that had been in place for five years. The country issues around 300 licenses for the shooting of elephants every year, bringing in around three million dollars.

President Masisi is of the opinion that Germany has no say in how Botswana regulates its elephant population. The fact that Germany wants to ban the import of trophies promotes poverty and poaching, he told the Bild newspaper. The minister should therefore accept the gift of 20,000 elephants: "You should live with the animals in the way you are trying to tell us to."

"Resurgence of colonial attempts at conquest"

The planned German ban on the import of hunting trophies is not an isolated case; it is part of European efforts. The EU Parliament announced plans for a ban in 2022. The French parliament is considering one. In the UK, the House of Commons voted in favor of a ban in March, with cross-party support. Belgium passed a ban at the beginning of February.

The argument for the bans in each case is: Hunting would further decimate wild animal populations, which have declined dramatically in many places.
In Botswana and other African countries, the view of trophy hunting is completely different: it serves to regulate populations, creates jobs and brings foreign currency into the country. Hunters, mostly Europeans or Americans, pay tens of thousands of francs to kill elephants, lions or leopards and take tusks, horns or skins home with them.
However, the fact that the planned European import bans are causing emotions to run so high is also due to deeper-seated sensitivities: Many Africans feel that self-righteous environmentalists in the West want to patronize them.
Back in March, Botswana's President Masisi commented on the British ban on Sky News with little diplomacy: it was "condescending" and a "revival of colonial attempts at conquest". His offer was to transport 10,000 elephants to London's Hyde Park.
Namibia's Foreign Minister Pohamba Shifeta also accused Germany of "neo-colonial interference" in view of the ban efforts.

From 50,000 to 130,000 elephants

Botswana is a victim of its own success when it comes to elephant conservation. In the 1980s, the number of elephants in the country had fallen to 50,000. This was in line with an African trend. Around 1900, there were around 10 million elephants living in Africa; their numbers fell to less than 300,000 by the mid-1990s.
In Botswana, the fight against poachers was so successful towards the end of the 20th century that the elephant population quickly rose again to around 130,000. In 2014, the then President Ian Khama also issued a ban on trophy hunting, which brought him much international acclaim.
However, as the elephant population increased, so did the number of collisions with humans - as occurs everywhere in Africa where humans and elephants live together. Community representatives called for controlled shooting to be allowed again. In 2019, Botswana's new President Masisi complied with the demand. This drew the ire of Western environmentalists and Hollywood stars, among others.

But Botswana's government is unimpressed by this resistance. She quotes figures from scientists who have calculated how many elephants could supply Botswana's resources: There are 50,000 to 80,000 fewer than today.

This stance has majority support in Africa. Most countries allow trophy hunting. One exception is Kenya, which banned it in 1977. Botswana's neighbor Namibia is considered exemplary in combining hunting and conservation. It has declared large parts of the country as protected areas where controlled hunting is permitted. The wild animal population has risen sharply in recent decades.

Kenya loses animals despite hunting ban

It is not always clear whether trophy hunting actually contributes to conservation. It is plagued by problems in many countries. Often too many animals are shot, regulations are ignored or communities are deprived of their share of the revenue.
However, it is undisputed that hunting brings in money. A 2015 study by the pro-hunting American organization Safari Club International Foundation estimated that hunting generated 426 million dollars annually for a group of eight African countries. Even the animal protection organization Humane Society International has estimated the revenue from trophy hunting at almost 132 million dollars.

Elephant and antelope skulls in Botswana: the German environment minister wants to ban the import of such hunting trophies.

It also seems clear that trophy hunting is not responsible for the decline in wildlife populations. Far more important are poaching and the loss of habitat. Kenya has lost more than 60 percent of its wildlife since the 1970s despite the hunting ban.

There are also many in African countries who reject trophy hunting because it also has colonial roots. And there are plenty of tasteless videos on the social platform YouTube of white men shooting giraffes and elephants from a few meters away.
However, the majority opinion is likely to be that of Botswana's government. That it is not up to Western environmentalists to tell African countries how they should treat their wildlife.


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