Professional hunters shoot research elephant dead and destroy collar to cover up killing

Shooting bears similarities to that of Cecil the lion who was also a research animal

Harry Cockburn
Sunday 15 December 2019 15:59
Botswana is home to almost a third of Africa's remaining elephants
Botswana is home to almost a third of Africa's remaining elephants

Two professional hunters who shot dead a research elephant and then tried to hide the evidence have had their licences revoked by Botswana’s government.

Michael Lee Potter and Kevin Sharp destroyed the elephant’s collar in an effort to cover up the shooting.

In a statement on Saturday, Botswana’s environment and tourism ministry described the incident as “unfortunate” and said the pair had surrendered their licences after shooting the animal dead at the end of November.

The hunters’ nationalities could not be immediately established. Mr Potter was banned for an indefinite period, while Mr Sharp has been banned for three years.

“In addition, the two hunters will replace the destroyed collar,” the ministry said.

“The ministry will work with the hunting industry to ensure that the necessary ethical standards are upheld.”

Neither hunter was available for comment, Reuters reports.

The shooting has parallels with the killing of Cecil the lion by an American hunter in neighbouring Zimbabwe in 2015. The lion was also wearing a research collar and was supposed to be protected. His death provoked outrage on social media.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi sparked global controversy when he lifted a ban on elephant hunting in May. The ban had been installed five years earlier by his predecessor, Ian Khama, an ardent conservationist.

Africa’s overall elephant population is declining due to poaching, but Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent’s elephants, has seen numbers grow to 130,000 from 80,000 in the late 1990s.

An enormous black market for ivory, mostly due to Chinese demand. remains a major threat to the species. Around 10,000 to 15,000 elephants are slaughtered every year – or roughly 40 a day.

As recently as 1980, there were over a million elephants in Africa; they now number just over 300,000 and are at risk of being wiped out from all but the most heavily protected pockets.

Officials in the southern African country say the animals are causing problems for farmers by ripping up their crops, so hunting is necessary to reduce their numbers.

The mostly arid country the size of France has a human population of around 2.3 million, and its expanses of wilderness draw millions of foreign tourists to view its wildlife.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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