Botswana threatens to flood Germany with 20,000 elephants if it curbs hunting trophy imports

Botswana has threatened to send 20,000 elephants to Germany, escalating an ongoing row over the import of hunting trophies.

The dispute began earlier this year when Germany’s environment ministry, citing concerns about poaching, suggested imposing stricter limits on the import of hunting trophies. Germany is the EU’s chief importer of African elephant trophies, according to a 2021 report by the Humane Society International.

On Tuesday, Botswana’s president Mokgweetsi Masisi told Bild that further restrictions on hunting would impoverish the African nation due to an explosion in the number of elephants.

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

“This is not a joke,” Mr Masisi added.

Conservation has led to a boom in Botswana’s elephant population but also increased man-animal conflict.

The landlocked nation is home to 130,000 elephants, accounting for a third of the world’s tuskers. In recent years, the president said elephant herds have been trampling people and destroying homes and crops.

Facing pressure from local communities to tackle the problem, Mr Masisi’s government in 2019 lifted the prohibition on trophy hunting imposed five years earlier.

Botswana had previously offered to send 8,000 elephants to Angola and 500 to Mozambique to deal with the “overpopulation”.

Mr Masisi said he would “like to offer such a gift to Germany” and “not take no for an answer”.

He criticised the German government and particularly the environment ministry for seeking to ban the import of trophies. “It is very easy to sit in Berlin and have an opinion about our affairs in Botswana. We are paying the price for preserving these animals for the world,” he said.

“We want our elephants to roam freely. The German weather is bad enough for them,” he added. “If you like them so much, then please accept this gift from us.”

The German environment ministry said Botswana had “not yet contacted them on this matter”, Politico reported. However, environment minister Steffi Lemke “signalled that she will accept Botswana’s invitation if an opportunity arises” to inspect wildlife protection.

In March, Botswana had threatened to send 10,000 elephants to Hyde Park in London in protest against a potential UK ban on safari hunters importing trophies.