The pricey permit system will allow hunters to kill 70 elephants in all.
The permit auction was arranged by Auction It Ltd. on behalf of the government on Friday in packages of 10 elephants, according to a document viewed by Bloomberg. The packages are purchased by expedition operators who sell them to trophy hunters at a profit. Most trophy hunters in southern Africa come from the U.S., according to Bloomberg.
All but one of the packages have been sold, Bloomberg reported.
African conservationist organizations that wanted to bid on the permits and not shoot the elephants were banned from participating, The Independent reported.
The EMS Foundation in Africa, which battles to protect elephants among its many projects, tweeted afterward: “Shame on you, President Masisi – we will not forget.”
The government has set a quota for killing a total of 272 of the animals this year. Foreign hunters will be allowed to shoot 202 of those, and export trophies.
Poaching also takes a major toll on elephants. Conservationists warn that hunting is particularly devastating because trophy hunters are after the largest, often healthiest, animals.
“Trophy hunting is artificial selection. By targeting the biggest and strongest animals, it leaves the weaker, smaller animals behind,” Eduardo Goncalves, founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, told The Independent. “This means the best genes are being lost, so the species will be less able to adapt to accelerating climate change, it will be more prone to disease, and the risk of extinction is greater.”
Botswana instituted a ban on elephant trophy hunting in 2014. But that ban has been revoked, and President Mokgweetsi Masisi promoted elephant hunting last year. Farmers have complained about an increase in dangerous encounters with elephants.
Besides concerns about the loss of the animals, and their suffering, conservationists have argued that Botswana’s important tourist industry could be devastated by the change, which will likely outrage visitors. Tourism accounts for a fifth of the African nation’s economy.
Botswana is home to some 130,000 elephants, the world’s largest population. But Africa’s total elephant population has plummeted by more than two-thirds in 40 years, from 1.3 million in 1979 to 415,000 in 2015, according to official figures.