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Collared Elephant Killed as Botswana Prepares to Issue 272 Hunting Licenses

Elephants prepare to cross a road as cars drive by in Kasane, in the Chobe district, Northern Botswana, on May 28, 2019.

A hunter has gunned down a collared elephant in Botswana, the first illegal killing since the country lifted a five-year ban on hunting the animals.

The killing has conservationists concerned but not opposed to elephant hunting, as Botswana has a growing elephant population that sometimes comes into conflict with humans.

Botswana's government said the elephant was shot in the tourism resort of Ngamiland by a licensed citizen in the company of a professional hunter and wildlife officers.

The elephant was wearing a collar put on for research purposes.

Action will be taken against the perpetrators, including revoking their licenses, the government said.

The hunters said the elephant herd charged, which resulted in the shooting of the collared bull.

Neil Fitt of the Kalahari Conservation Society said it was odd for a collared animal to be shot.

"It should in reality never happen,” Fitt said. “If a professional hunter is doing his job properly, he should not get himself or his clients in a position that they have to do proactive work. It is unacceptable for elephants or any other animal to be shot using professional hunters in that aspect."

A local professional hunter, Randy Motsumi, said at times it is difficult for hunters to spot the collar, which is usually brown or black.

"An elephant has big ears which can hinder your sight to look at the collar on the neck,” Motsumi said. “If it is facing you, it is very difficult to see its neck, unless if you take time to look at the animal."

Botswana is issuing 272 hunting licenses for the 2020 hunting season. Foreign hunters will be allocated 200 licenses and allowed to export the trophy. The remainder of the licenses are reserved for locals.

Fitt has no objection to the licenses.

"The number issue is actually fine,” Fitt said. “It's how and where those numbers will actually be allocated and if the communities in those areas will be properly consulted and allow their voices to be heard regarding the numbers."

Most African countries have banned or limited hunting to protect declining elephant populations from poachers. But Botswana has the highest number of elephants in the world, at an estimated 130,000, more than double the official capacity.

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