Botswana threatens Germany with 20K elephants amid trophy hunting feud

The president of Botswana, home to the world’s largest elephant population, has threatened to send 20,000 of the giant living land mammals to Germany to "roam free" amid a feud over trophy hunting.

According to German news outlet Bild, the dispute began when German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke called on Botswana to enact stricter rules on exporting the elephants killed in trophy hunts due to poaching concerns. Germany is one of Europe’s largest importers of hunting trophies. 

Mokgweetsi Masisi, Botswana’s president, responded with a "serious" offer: gifting 20,000 of the South African country’s elephants to Germany to "roam free."


African elephant walking in line, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana. (Photo by: Sergio Pitamitz/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Masisi said his country’s conservation efforts have led to an overpopulation of elephants – roughly 130,000 of them – that trample crops and injure and kill people in Botswana’s villages. Trophy hunting is a way of helping to control the population while also bringing in millions of dollars in tourism revenue from trophy hunting each year, Masisi argued.

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Much of that revenue is used for elephant conservation efforts, he said: Roughly 40% of Botswana's land is reserved for wildlife.

"It is very easy to sit in Berlin and have an opinion about our affairs in Botswana. We are paying the price for preserving these animals for the world – and even for Lemke’s party," Masisi told the German news outlet. "It’s not a joke. You should live with the animals the way you try to tell us."

The statements are similar to those made last month by Botswana’s minister of Environment and Tourism. He suggested to Sky News that Botswana should send 10,000 elephants to Hyde Park in London to give the UK a "taste of living alongside them." Britain was also considering a measure to restrict hunting trophy imports.

Botswana had banned trophy hunting in 2014 to combat poaching and a decline in elephant populations, but the ban was repealed in 2019 amid complaints from locals. Now, Botswana issues quotas on how many elephants can be hunted each year.

Botswana officials invited their German counterparts to visit Botswana and "appreciate the country’s conservation strides."

The U.S. announced stricter rules on trophy hunting imports effective May 1.