- Joins conservationists against animal hunting and trade of animal by-products

Former President Ian Khama has urged Britain to ban the import of animal trophies from Botswana.

Khama who was on a state-funded visit to Britain recently is a hard-core conservationist who is against trophy hunting and the trade of wild animal by-products.

Khama met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and in media interviews, requested Britain to outlaw the import of animal body parts from Botswana.

"Without a ban on hunting trophy imports, animals, particularly elephants, would be nearer extinction," he said.

Khama has found allies in British Members of Parliament (MPs) who have formed an all-party caucus committee that presented the ban on imports of animal trophies to the British Parliament.

The MPs have compiled a 278-page report complete with the contribution of several experts, claiming to be an inquiry into trophy hunting, and includes confessions of trophy hunters and pictures of them with dead animals such as elephants, giraffes, and lions.

Some of the trophy hunters said that trophy hunting is a sport and they "do it for fun" which enraged conservationists, who insist that this barbaric act is a form of animal cruelty, encourages poaching, and would lead to the extinction of some animal species.

The highly publicised report was published shortly after the controversial killing of 'Cecil the lion,' in Hwangwe National Park in Zimbabwe, who was killed for US$50,000, approximately P623 615.

The illegal hunt killing caused outrage across the world and mourning for the lion among conservationists. The beautiful collared male lion was praised for being the "most handsome" among the lion pride in the park.

Khama criminalised trophy hunting after ascending to the Presidency. During his tenure, there were strict laws on animal hunting that warranted stiff fines that included jail terms.

He has been hailed for pushing for strict mechanisms aimed at thwarting poaching including increasing the visibility of anti-poaching units.

When he took over, President Mokgweetsi Masisi lifted the hunting ban and allowed for animal hunting licences to be issued. According to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, nearly 300 licences for hunting have been issued this year.

President Masisi has been criticised for his liberal approach to wildlife protection and conservation. When he was "attacked" for allowing animal hunting, Masisi pointed out that Botswana is a proud custodian of wildlife, which is the pride of our tourism.

However, he clarified that while the Government is invested in protecting natural ecosystems of flora and fauna, it also has a duty to ensure that communities benefit from those animals.

He has also pointed out that Government was also battling with the increased number of wildlife, particularly elephants, which number over 150, 000, the highest population of elephants in the world.

He said this has worsened the human-wildlife conflict. Government has in the past few years accrued claims of over P6 million for animal attack deaths and the destruction of crops and farms due to animal encroachments, mostly elephants.

Masisi's sentiments were reiterated by the director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Kabelo Senyatso who said that while trophy hunting is unpopular among conservationists it was a way to make money for communities - which is invested into conservation projects - and also manage the number of animals.

Botswana has further started a new scheme where locals can now keep game animals such as impala, zebra, giraffes, and elephants on their masimo (lands) and integrated farms. The Government recently made an open call for Batswana to apply for licences. Senyatso said that previously the wildlife sector was the preserve of the elite but they want to include ordinary Batswana in it.

"We want to open the wildlife industry and make it inclusive for all Batswana," he said.

Botswana is also among the countries that are currently lobbying for the opening of legal trophy trade and the sale of ivory, particularly ivory stockpiles.