The nation that's home to roughly a third of Africa's 415,000 elephants has delivered a harsh but unsurprising blow to conservationists in lifting a five-year ban on hunting the animals. "The number and high levels of human-elephant conflict and the consequent impact on livelihoods was increasing," Botswana's Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation, and Tourism said in a Wednesday statement. It came after President Mokgweetsi Masisi ordered a review of the hunting ban imposed by his predecessor, prompting recommendations of "regular but limited elephant culling" and the "establishment of elephant meat canning" for pet food in February. The ministry says it will "ensure that re-instatement of hunting is done in an orderly and ethical manner."
Since then, the ministry says it has consulted with communities, local authorities, tourism operators, NGOs, and conservationists and "the general consensus … was that the hunting ban should be lifted." Some communities complained elephants were expanding into new territory, destroying crops, and sometimes killing people. But conservationists argue this is a result of climate change, one of several factors causing elephant populations to decline. They say the lifting of the ban won't help a population already at risk of extinction, per CNN. In fact, they say it could make elephants more aggressive, per the Guardian, while some fear legal ivory sales are next on the horizon. The BBC notes the move may be seen as a way to raise Masisi's standing with rural voters ahead of an October election. (Read more elephants stories.)