May 23 (UPI) — Botswana, home of the world’s largest population of elephants, lifted its ban on hunting the animals Wednesday.
The African country’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism issued a statement announcing the suspension of the five-year ban preventing sport hunters from killing elephants.
“The ministry would like to reiterate that it will work with all stakeholders to ensure that re-instatement of hunting is done in an orderly and ethical manner and in accordance with the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act and … regulations,” the statement read.
The government said the number of elephants in Botswana has nearly tripled to 160,000 since 1991, Bloomberg reported.
The government established the Cabinet Subcommittee on Hunting Ban Social Dialogue to review the suspension in June 2018 and found the general consensus was that the ban should be lifted.
According to the statement, the review found that levels of human-elephant conflict and the number of predators increased under the ban.
It also found that the hunting suspension caused a negative impact on community organizations that previously profited from elephant hunts and that the Department of Wildlife and National Parks did not have the capacity to respond to animal control reports.
Neighboring countries where elephant hunting is legal charge an average of about $45,000 for each hunt.
“Conservation of our species is paramount, but communities’ rights and livelihoods are as important as the species itself,” said Debbie Peak, a spokeswoman for the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association.
Some conservationists opposed the move, stating Botswana is one of the final remaining safe places for elephants in Africa.