Klaserie River Sands

Botswana Kills Trophy Hunting – Ian Michler reflects

Just under 2 weeks ago, the President of Botswana, Lt. Gen. Ian Khama, gave a speech wherein he announced that by the end of 2013, trophy hunting would no longer be allowed in Botswana.

Speaking at a local kgotla in Mababe, a village along the edge of the Okavango Delta, he said that “Next year will be the last time anyone is allowed to hunt in Botswana and we have realised that if we do not take care of our animals, we will have a huge problem in terms of tourism.”

Botswana bans hunting licences

© Ian Michler

The decision has been expected for a number of years now, and while there is still uncertainty with regards to the exact details and nature of how this will be implemented, the local press has taken his words as being the end of the road for hunters. It is believed that the ban extends to all ‘citizen hunting’ as well, and covers all species, including elephant other than a small CITES based quota for those designated as ‘problem animals’.

While these steps will obviously be unwelcome amongst the hunting fraternity, there is a growing group of ecologists, conservationists and ecotourism operators, as well as large numbers within the general public that will laud the government for their visionary approach. For these people, trophy hunting offers little or no benefit to conservation, and cannot match other forms of ecotourism with regards to its economic, social and educational contributions. It is also regarded as an anachronistic and needless pastime carried out by a privileged few.

And in Botswana’s case, the industry has shown an alarming inability to regulate itself, which has meant various operators over the years getting away with unethical or illegal behaviour. There will be no tears shed for some of these people.

However, we should not forget that many within both the private and government sectors across this continent still remain enamoured by the lure of trophy hunting, and it’s an industry that is fuelled by a substantial lobby supported and funded by wealthy and influential business and political interests from around the world. It is these factors that have ensured hunting has remained entrenched for a good deal longer than its credentials merit. As a result, the industry will take longer to die in many other countries, but in taking this bold decision Botswana has broken ranks and they must be complimented for this.

Expect many of the hunters to head for grounds where their activities are still tolerated – Tanzania, northern Mozambique and Zambia will be the favourite destinations. This will of course bring further pressure on already pressurized wildlife populations with more hunters vying for quota.

And the Botswana government should now be monitoring the impacts this decision is likely to have on wildlife breeding and canned hunting practices within areas such as Ghanzi. We already know that a government Minister from the region has been responsible for importing and exporting lions over the last few years. Expect a surge in the appalling practices that have now become the hallmark of the private sector within the South African wildlife industry.

In the meantime, the remaining hunting concessions will in all likelihood be turned over to photographic ecotourism, a far superior land-use option for managing wildlife resources. The big challenge for them, in conjunction with government and the conservation agencies, is to ensure a successful transition. It will surely take time, and there will be setbacks along the way,  but twenty years ago who would have thought that northern Botswana would be rid of trophy hunting?

Ian Michler

Ian has spent the last 24 years working as a specialist guide, photo-journalist and consultant across Africa, including a stint of 13 years based in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. When not guiding, he writes predominately for Africa Geographic covering topics on conservation, wildlife management, ecotourism, and the environment, and has been writing his popular monthly column since 2001. Ian is also the author and photographer of seven natural history and travel books on Africa, and is a past winner of the bird category in the Agfa Wildlife photographic competition (1997). He has also worked as a researcher and field coordinator on various natural history television documentaries for international broadcasters and as a consultant on ecotourism to various private sector and government agencies. Prior to his life in the wilderness, he spent eight years practicing as a stockbroker in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

  • Ian McMillan

    Congratulations Botswana…great to see a country to have the courage to take a bold, and very necessary, step.

  • Peter & Beverly Pickford

    Congratulations to President Khama and the people of Botswana. Yet again Africa proves that despite our many struggles we can rise above the tedium of day to day politics and make decisions that are not only enlightened but far sighted and like Mr. Mandela, give an example that the world will ultimately have to follow. The end of slavery began in just this way.

  • James Gubb

    Well done Botswanans. You are bravely showing the rest of Africa what is required in terms of a principled and morally correct approach to conservation. I cannot wait until the wildlife has forgotten the sound of the gun and begins to walk closely and fearlessly with us again.

  • Leigh Wood

    Awesome well done Botswana, may your conscious and wise decision spread throughout Africa. It takes ONE to make a difference, looking forward to seeing the ripple effects!

    • Ian

      Wish South Africa would take better care of their Wildlife ..see they are going to put an Open Cast coalmine right on the immediate border of their best game reserve in Kwazulu Natal . What a HUGE mistake !!

  • David Grier

    A bold footprint has now been etched into the soil of Africa, may this turn into a migration of thought change –

  • iva spitzer

    This is fantastic news. It again gives us hope that where there is strong leadership and conviction, africa may ultimately succeed in protecting its greatest and most unique natural resource…its wildlife. If the execution of this commitment can be acheived, and the results are rewarding for Botswna, perhaps then other countries will follow this initiative. Thank you President Khama!

  • jon dembrow

    Congratulations to the government of Botswana for this bold and humane initiative. My wife and I support you 100%.


  • Lee Ryall

    Congratulations to President Khama, my other countries in Africa have the courage to follow your bold decision.

  • Robbi Firestone

    Congratulations for being a leading light in the continent. A courageous decision President Khama. I am grateful for your vision and fortitude. Thank you!

  • Who would have thought 3 weeks ago!? This is called being a leader. Hopefully it’s the start of the ball rolling in the right direction.

    • Ian

      Yep.. but having done so requires the management side to be beefed up to stop poaching the increasing Game stocks ..

  • Lex Hes

    What great news! Hopefully other African countries will follow suit and start leaving our wild free-ranging animals alone. President Khama is to be congratulated for his leadership and principles.

  • Candice Young

    🙂 wow that is amazing!!!!!!!!

  • Great opportunities indeed open for ecotourism new developments 🙂

  • Simon Espley

    Excellent post, thanks Ian

  • isso


  • Aaaah this is indeed good news ..May the Lord Bless you Ian Michler X

  • John Weavind

    This is up there with the Most idiotic decisions ever made in Africa. Is it possible that stipidity reigns even in Botswana?? What do you mean by doing this?? Do you think your animal populations will now improve?? You are totally and utterly ridiculous even considering any kind of “end to trophy hunting”, now you will have Jobless people Snaring everything. Really, people of Africa and the Western world you sign the death warrant for huge populations of wildlife and Habitat by ending paid hunting.

    • Paul

      John this rant makes no sense

    • Brendan Baker

      Sod off John … you’re being a chop…the senseless murder in the name of sport and conservation ,is a filthy occupation.Are you so blind that you cannot see what an enormous achievement this is?

    • James

      No doubt you enjoy slaughtering animals in cold blood for ‘fun’ and are worried about what you will be able to brag to your big tough mates about now

    • Tebogo Trevor Mubu

      At least we still have our animal still roaming in the wild not in captivity, just to let you know our tourism employs more people than you and your trophy (paid) hunting groups!!!!!

  • Michael1994

    Congrats to Botswana for recognizing injustices of unethical hunting in their country however I am worried that this change is going to cross borders into places like South Africa, which has a relatively healthy hunting industry.

    With proper regulation hunting could be seen as a large contributor to society in general. I do not advocate the prohibition of hunting however I do advocate ethical hunting as a contributor to conservation. I think Botswana is going to experience some problems in the future as with any prohibition (e.g. emergence of black market).

    I also think that a call for banning hunting everywhere are extreme and hold no worth. People are not realising the relative context of this ban when they call for it to happen everywhere.

  • Gloria Sapp

    Great job Thank you BOTSWANA

  • Arjun Reddy

    For all of you who have written praises about Ian Michlers article which is anti hunting. Can I ask you to identify the head of the animal in the photo of this article? It happens to be that of a Lord Derby Eland that is not found today in Botswana. BECAUSE it never existed in Botswana. They are found only in West Africa. So to all you “so called” experts who want to manage wildlife. you guys are clueless about the animals to start off with!
    Banning hunting in Botswana will encourage rampant poaching and the end of its great wildlife. You should all be ashamed for supporting a policy which will kill hundreds of thousands of animals and destroy Botswana’s wildlife.

    • Botswana Fan

      Do you live in Botswana – i think you should be ashamed for taking the motswana people as fools…. they are an intelligent resourceful and visionary lot of people and i think this is a simple slap in the face against there integrity. I can tell you this has been well thought out and they will make every effort to up the job count and keep the money in the country. Live there and see how it works before you pass a silly comment like this. This country has great law enforcement and rampant poaching will not take place as you mentioned.

    • Nigel Miller

      LIke in Tanzania you mean ? Where they allow trophy hunting en masse, a quarter of the country is given over to parks and game reserves and roughly 28% of their GDP comes from agriculture, hunting and fishing ?

      Oh and where, despite this, they are losing 10,000 elephants a year to your “rampant poaching”. Yes Tanzania, a great advert for hunting and the way it prevents poaching.

    • Ian

      Well.. the Lord Derby Eland is as dead as he is .Most of us refer to the living, and will go there as photographers and trekkers enjoying the bountiful game that will result from this decision ..

    • Tebogo Trevor Mubu

      An Eland is an Eland whether its Lord Derby or not it is an Eland mind you we have Elands in Botswana!!!!!!

  • Interested observer

    Just a few comments to consider. It is interesting that an economist makes such comments as often hunting produces much more profit per hunter and there are usually less hunters than eco tourists. It is not all about dollars but environmental impact. Ecotourism is not always low impact as often perceived. Often as is the case most of the the dollars generate leave the area, you may say similar to hunting unless of course the concession areas are community based. It will be interesting to monitor the flow of dollars into wildlife and the Conservation of areas were hunting is stopped. Cynical prediction -COWS

  • K Norley

    This is a wonderful step in the right direction but also…. please make sure that if they do this that they don’t allow canned hunting where they allow people to farm animals such as lions,, leopards, elephants, giraffe to then be killed in a small paddock for so call people to hang trophies on walls

  • Hamina

    I congratulate Botswana for taking a very Bold and an extremely important step . I hope these are not just words but true action behind this announcement . It truly is an uplifting message for a dying and sad spirit .

  • sylvia schmidt

    “Congratulations to President Khama, my other countries in Africa have the courage to follow your bold decision.” I concur with Lee Ryall ! Eco tourism is the honorable way to improve your economy. I cannot wait to visit your country Botswana! Thank you.

  • Lynn Waddell

    Fantastic news, let this initiative be taken up by all other nations.

  • Maren Dallmann

    Fantastic news!!! I hope many more Governments will follow Botswana’s very far sighted example in the not too distant future.

  • Patricia Byrne, Cape Town

    Thank you for keeping us abreast of things like this. Well done Ian

  • Those bloodthirsty vampires in SCI will be scrambling…..After all- it’s”first for hunters, last for wildlife” over at canned hunting central…..

  • Now if only we could get South Africa to fall into the ocean.

  • If you want to see how this will turn out simply look to Kenya. Kenya banned hunting and it has now lost 70% of its wildlife. When Botswana didn’t allow hunting there were very few elephants and now is home to 1/3 of the worlds elephant population. Eco tourism simply doesn’t bring in the money that it takes to protect the wildlife. When the animals have no dollar value to the locals, then they are taken as food or poached for the black market.

  • John Zolis

    fantastic news – I would consider visiting now because of your approach to wildlife –

  • gpsafaris

    Ian Michele continues to spew mistruths and badly researched wildlife articles to the detriment of Africans precious resource, a failed stock broker who ran away from the crash to find himself in Africans wildlife areas , he recklessly spews misinformed information in direct contrast to professional and credible wildlife biologists

  • Baroness Danuté

    WOW that is fantastic news.

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