At least one rare desert elephant has been killed in Namibia and more are likely to follow. The country has granted nine permits to hunt the large beasts, of which the Conservation Action Trust says only 100 exist. As the permits specify adult males, the trust says that part of the population—estimated at 18—will be cut in half, Popular Science reports. In Namibia's view, this is not a cause for concern. The environment and tourism ministry last month asserted there is "no such thing" as a desert elephant, as it's simply a common African elephant that has adapted to desert conditions.
With 20,000 elephants within its borders and 391 in the area where the hunt will occur, elephants are "no longer rare ... but only potentially valuable," the ministry maintains. As for reports that the permits are being offered in exchange for political votes, it says that is "inaccurate, false." While it's true desert elephants aren't a unique species, they "possess a number of unique behaviors shared by no other African elephants, such as digging wells to purify their drinking water," and have both thinner bodies and wider feet, writes John Platt at Scientific American. He notes that the Conservation Action Trust believes the death of the nine males could lead to behavioral problems among the remaining population. (Read more Namibia stories.)