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Botswana threatens to send 20,000 elephants to Germany amid trophy hunting dispute

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi is threatening to send 20,000 elephants to Germany after the European country’s environment ministry called for limiting imports on hunted trophies, according to a report.

Masisi told German reporters that the move would have a significant economic impact on his nation, which is being overrun by an exploding elephant population as a result of conservation efforts, The BBC reported.

Herds of the massive animals have been destroying crops, causing property damage and trampling people, according to Masisi. Last year, an elephant herd trampled a Botswana soldier to death.

Hunting, he said, helps keep their numbers in check and provides critical sources of income for some residents.

Germans should “live together with the animals, in the way you are trying to tell us to,”  Masisi told German newspaper Bild.

Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi, President of Botswana,
Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi, President of Botswana, said he wasn’t joking about sending the elephants to Germany. NurPhoto via Getty Images
Small group of African elephants drinking at a waterhole in Mashatu game reserve, Botswana, illustrating climate change impact on wildlife
Botswana has been overrun by elephants, who are destroying crops and injuring civilians. VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

More than 130,000 elephants roam Botswana — about a third of the world’s elephant population, according to the BBC.

Botswana has previously given 8,000 elephants to countries like Angola and has offered hundreds more to Mozambique to keep the population down.

“We would like to offer such a gift to Germany,” Masisi said, emphasizing he was not joking.

Botswana banned trophy hunting in 2014 but later lifted restrictions in 2019 after lobbying from local communities. There are now annual hunting quotas for those who have a license to kill the beasts.

Germany is the EU’s largest importer of African elephant trophies and hunting trophies overall, according to a 2021 report by the Human Society International.

France, Belgium and Australia are among the countries that have banned the hunting trophy trade, according to The BBC.

A spokeswoman for Germany’s environmental ministry in Berlin told AFP that Botswana had not brought up its concerns about the measure with German officials.

“In light of the alarming loss of biological diversity, we have a special responsibility to do everything to ensure the import of hunting trophies is sustainable and legal,” she said.

The ministry, however, remained in talks with African countries affected by import rules, including Botswana, the spokeswoman said.