Botswana offers 20,000 elephants to Germany in diplomatic spat over trophy hunting

3 April 2024, 06:55 | Updated: 3 April 2024, 09:26

Botswana's president has offered to send 20,000 elephants to Germany in an escalation of a diplomatic row over trophy hunting. 

President Mokgweetsi Masisi suggested in an interview with German newspaper Bild that Berlin should try living with elephants to experience the challenges the endangered species bring to the community.

Mr Masisi was responding to Germany's environment ministry suggesting earlier this year that there should be tougher rules against importing hunting trophies.

Botswana's president said Germans should "live together with the animals, in the way you are trying to tell us to".

He said in the interview on Tuesday: "20,000 wild elephants for Germany. It's not a joke."

Mr Masisi told Sky News last month the elephant population in Botswana has almost "tripled" to 130,000 in 2024 from 50,000 in 1984, with the animals in "constant conflict with humans".

The country in southern Africa is home to one-third of the continent's elephant population and while it had banned big game hunting back in 2014, it was forced to lift restrictions in 2019 amid claims the animals were affecting small-scale farmers' livelihoods.

Mr Masisi has also recently hit out at a proposed ban on trophy hunting imports to the UK, describing it not only as "condescending" but also a "resurgence of a colonial conquest".

Speaking on The World With Yalda Hakim, Botswana's leader defended trophy hunting as "you pick which [animal] you hunt" whereas "culling" has a connotation of "ethical abhorrence" associated with it.

Following the president's comments, the German government reportedly said Botswana has not raised any concerns about its policy officially but that it felt compelled to act against the import of hunting trophies because of an "alarming loss of biological diversity".

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Botswana's environment and tourism minister Dumezweni Mthimkhulu had previously said "trophy hunting" was a way of controlling wild animal numbers in his country and a source of income for communities.

In recent years the Conservative government in the UK has stepped up efforts to tackle trophy hunting, with MPs voting last month to ban trophy hunting imports, though the legislation is yet to become law.

After this, politicians from African nations reportedly talked about sending 10,000 wild elephants to Hyde Park so British people would know what it is like to live with them.

Asked if his country was really going to do this, Mr Mthimkhulu later told Sky News' Breakfast With Kay Burley it was a "rhetorical offer to the English" so they could understand the problems his people face.