Botswana likens trophy hunting to culling after threats to send 10,000 elephants to Hyde Park


A Botswana minister has defended “trophy hunting” and compared it to “culling”, saying it is a way of controlling wild animal numbers in his country and a source of income for communities.

It comes as MPs prepare to debate a proposed ban on UK safari hunters bringing body parts of animals they shoot, like tusks, back home.

Politicians from Botswana have reportedly threatened to send 10,000 wild elephants to Hyde Park so British people know what it is like to live with them.

African elephants at Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana. Pic: VWPics/AP

Asked if his country was really going to do this, Botswana’s environment and tourism minister Dumezweni Mthimkhulu told Sky News’ Breakfast With Kay Burley it was a “rhetorical offer to the English” so they could understand the problems his people face.

He said elephant numbers in Botswana have almost “tripled” from 50,000 in 1984 to 130,000 in 2024 – causing “a lot of chaos”, with the animals in “constant conflict with humans”.

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He said scientists have advised the number that can be sustained in the natural habitat is 50,000.

Mr Mthimkhulu said the UK bill would be “counterproductive” and “discourage the people who are living with these animals from conserving and protecting them”.

He invited British politicians to “come and see” the “destruction” for themselves, adding he had been told former England footballer Gary Lineker is also in favour of a ban.

“I want to invite him to come to Botswana, so that he can really understand and see what is going on in the country with the elephants… with the trophy hunting,” he said.

Botwana says wild elephant numbers have almost tripled in the country during the last 40 years. Pic: VWPics/AP

Pic: VWPics/AP

Pic: VWPics/AP

The minister said he could not understand why some people in other countries find the pursuit abhorrent.

He said his government is supportive of trophy hunting because it is “controlled” and “good for our people”.

“Trophy hunting which is culling, is part of the way of the conservation of these animals,” he said.

“We cull them, we control their numbers – the numbers are just so explosive in Botswana, and they need to be controlled. Trophy hunting is one way of controlling these explosive numbers.”

Asked if trophy hunting is the same as culling, he said: “If you talk about ethics… you may try and differentiate them.

“If you go out and kill an animal, it is the same. It is hunting… we don’t just go out and hunt and kill. We give quotas every year so that we can be able to control the numbers of animals in the wild.

“That is why we say that our hunting is controlled. If we issue a hunting quota it is because we want to reduce the number of animals in the wild – not just because we want to kill them.”

“The end point is the same” should a person want to hunt and kill an animal and bring back home a “trophy” from its “carcass”, he said.

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The minister said the numbers across all species in his country are going up every day, every year – not going down.

“It shows the conservation is going very well, and this conservation is done hand-in-hand with trophy hunting which helps the communities – it gives them a source of income,” he said.

He said to take that income away would “disincentivise” them from taking care of the wild animals and likely lead to demands for land – set aside for conservation – for farming and other income-generating activities.

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A ban on big game hunting was lifted in Botswana in 2019 amid claims elephant numbers were affecting small-scale farmers’ livelihoods.

In some parts of the country there are more elephants than people, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The bill to be debated by MPs on Friday is a Private Members Bill spearheaded by Labour MP John Spellar. It is not clear at this stage if the government will give it its backing.

A pledge to introduce a ban was in the Tory manifesto in 2019 and the government said late last year it was still committed to bringing one in.

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