A third of Africa's elephants—an estimated 130,000—are found in Botswana. That's one reason animal activists are alarmed to learn the country is considering lifting its four-year ban on hunting the giant animal, 87 of which were found slaughtered and stripped of their tusks in a "poaching frenzy" last year. President Mokgweetsi Masisi ordered a review of the ban put in place by his predecessor after he was elected in April 2018. Handed out Thursday, the resulting report recommends introducing "regular but limited elephant culling" and the "establishment of elephant meat canning" for pet food, reports the BBC. It also suggests the elephant population should be managed "within its historic range," per Reuters. That is, a smaller one than the elephants currently have.
Experts say the range elephants travel is much larger today due to factors including climate change and human encroachment. But farmers and others living in rural villages near elephant habitats say the animals are taking over, putting crops and people at risk. The BBC notes Masisi, looking ahead to an October election, is in the position of trying to balance the wishes of voters with Botswana's international reputation for conservation among tourists, who provide the country's second largest source of foreign income after diamond mining. "A white paper will follow and it will be shared with the public," the president says. He adds that parliament will have a chance "to intervene before we make a final determination." (Masisi previously took flak for disarming anti-poaching units.)