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Botswana lifts ban on elephant hunting.

The number of elephants in Botswana has almost tripled to 160,000 since 1991, increasing conflict between farmers and the animals, which at times destroy crops and kill villagers.

Critics, including former President Ian Khama, say the drive is geared to win rural votes in an October election and could damage tourism, which accounts for a fifth of the economy.

The Botswana Wildlife Producers Association welcomed the decision. “Conservation of our species is paramount, but communities’ rights and livelihoods are as important as the species itself,” spokeswoman Debbie Peak said in a text message.

Other conservationists say Botswana is one of the animal’s last safe havens in Africa and believe President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s motives for lifting the ban were political. Support for his Botswana Democratic Party, in power since independence from the U.K. in 1966, reached a record low of 46% in the last vote in 2014.

Lifting the ban would appeal to villagers struggling to keep elephants out of their fields and boost Masisi’s popularity ahead of general elections in October.

Most of Botswana’s elephants live in the country’s northeast and regularly cross into Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia, which have large populations of their own.


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