The Nov. 24 incident echoed the killing of Cecil the lion in 2015 and came after President Mokgweetsi Masisi lifted a ban on elephant hunting in May that his predecessor Ian Khama introduced back in 2014 — citing an increase in conflict between humans and elephants.
The country has an elephant population of 130,000, the largest in the world.
The hunters, Michael Lee Potter and Kevin Sharp, voluntarily surrendered their professional hunting licenses to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, according to a Botswana Government release Saturday. The nationalities of the two men were unknown.
“The period of the surrender of Mr. Potter’s license is indefinite while Mr. Sharp’s license will be surrendered for a period of three years with immediate effect,” the release said.
Even with the ban lifted, the male elephant had protected status as a research elephant after the non-governmental organization (NGO) Elephants Without Borders collared it.
“Killing of collared animals is not permitted under any circumstances,” the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation, and Tourism said in a statement Thursday. “Appropriate measures shall be taken against transgressors including revocation of their licenses. We urge hunters to adhere to the hunting guidelines, their code of conduct and ensure that ethical hunting is practiced at all times.”
The men were ordered to replace the elephant’s destroyed collar, which the hunters allegedly hadn’t seen because “the elephant was in a full-frontal position,” according to Thursday’s statement.
Reuters reported the two men destroyed the collar to hide evidence of the killing. It’s not clear how the collar was destroyed.
“Instead of following the correct procedure of report and return, the tracking device was removed by the hunter and attempts were made to destroy it,” said the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association, as Bloomberg reported. “We are concerned about poor ethics in breaking procedure.”
Officials said the elephants can cause problems for farmers by ripping up their crops, citing hunting as a necessary way to thin their numbers.
“We wish to reassure the public that the Ministry will work with the hunting industry to ensure that the necessary ethical standards are upheld at all times,” Saturday’s release added.