Botswana Threatens to Send 20,000 Elephants to Germany in Retaliation

Rob T Smith /
Rob T Smith /

Germany’s government is considering a proposal to ban the importation of elephant trophies from Botswana right now. That’s not sitting well with President Mokgweetsi Masisi, whose country has been successfully managing one-third of the planet’s savannah elephants for many years. Since Botswana has done such a great job of rehabilitating elephants since the 1980s, the president is threatening to send 20,000 of the beasts to Germany if this proposal passes.

Contrary to the belief of European bureaucrats thousands of miles away, elephants are not endangered. There are 130,000 of them in Botswana alone, a number that has ballooned under that country’s conservation efforts since 1984. Part of the way that Botswana successfully conserves and maintains its elephant population is through trophy hunts.

Everyone likes elephants. They’re the biggest, goofiest land animal on the planet. But the truth is they’re a terrible nuisance to maintain in large numbers. They’re huge and they’re hard to stop if they decide to go on a rampage.

Botswana tried to ban trophy hunting of elephants in 2014 and it backfired spectacularly. By 2019, herds of elephants were destroying property and crops, killing livestock, and costing tons of money. The government was forced to reinstate trophy hunts to manage their numbers. Botswana also doesn’t have a ton of natural resources for exporting, so elephant trophies are a major source of income for the incredibly poor country.

If Germany bans the importation of elephant trophies, it only hurts Botswana. So, the president is making a very reasonable threat: If Germany wants to hurt Botswana by eliminating the demand for trophies, then Germany can take 20,000 elephants off Botswana’s hands.

People also forget that elephants are very dangerous. An elderly American tourist was killed by an elephant on safari in Zambia just this week, and video of the attack surfaced on Twitter/X: