Elephant Meat Could Be Used for Pet Food in Botswana If Hunting Is Legalized

The president of Botswana will consider proposals that a hunting ban in the nation be lifted for the first time since 2014—and for elephant meat to be used as pet food.

The Southern African country passed a motion in parliament last year to review restrictions that were put in place over fears that several species in the country were on the decline.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi received the study's findings yesterday. The government said he "expressed delight" at receiving the report. But critics fear lifting the ban could negatively impact the nation's wildlife—specifically the estimated 130,000 elephants in the region.

The BBC reported today that recommendations included lifting the ban, that the elephant population should be managed "within its historic range" and that any migratory routes used by wildlife "not beneficial to the country's conservation efforts" should be shuttered.

The report also proposed the "establishment of elephant meat canning, including production of pet food and processing into other products," according to The EastAfrican newspaper.

The report suggested elephant culls should be "regular but limited." One of the main reasons was to reduce "human-wildlife conflict from increased population," The EastAfrican reported.

In comments reported by the BBC, President Masisi said: "I can promise you and the nation that we will consider it. A white paper will follow and it will be shared with the public.

"If needs be, we will give an opportunity to parliament to also interrogate it, and also allow them the space to intervene before we make a final determination," he added.

Botswana currently has the largest elephant population on the continent, statistics suggest.

Reuters reported last year that the government claimed the elephant population to be upwards of 230,000—which is significantly higher than the accepted number of around 130,000. Some politicians argued the vast number could be a risk for the local population and farmers.

In an article published November last year, the Conservation Action Trust non-profit group described the inflated statistics as being "used to support the hunting agenda."

"According to the African Elephant Specialist Group, a coordinated cross-border survey would be the only way to get more precise population numbers. Until then, Botswana's approximate 130,000 elephants is our best estimate," the group said, rejecting the government line.

Largely due to poaching, the Conservation Action Trust claimed that over the last 10 years a loss of 30 percent of the elephant population has been reported across Africa.

Today, animal rights activists criticised the proposals, saying Africa remains key to the survival of the elephant species.

Eduardo Gonçalves, of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting organization, said in a press release: "Allowing elephants in their last stronghold to be killed for entertainment is the last thing it needs. The proposal to kill them for pet food is beyond bizarre."

In 2013, the hunting ban in Botswana was announced by former president Ian Khama. Hunting in registered game ranches was not impacted, officials said.