OPINION: Botswana’s Hunting Ban Deserves Better from the New York Times

By Maraya Cornell

A recent article in the New York Times casts Botswana’s hunting ban, enacted just under two years ago, as the disastrous move of a nation acting under the spell of Western animal rights activism.

The author, Norimitsu Onishi, who is the paper’s bureau chief for southern Africa, blames the ban for swelling the number of dangerous animals that terrorize villagers in Sankuyo, where his story is set. And he claims that Sankuyo’s land is “peripheral,” too remote for photo tourism to make up for the income the village lost when trophy hunting ceased.

Both of these conclusions are dubious at best.

Has the Ban Worsened Human-Wildlife Conflict?

Onishi writes that since the ban, “growing numbers” of lions and elephants are terrorizing villagers in Sankuyo, snatching livestock and raiding crops.


Botswana has had a moratorium on lion hunting for most of the past 13 years. So it’s difficult to see how this more general ban, not yet two years old, could have changed the population dynamics of Botswana’s lions.

A lion in the Okavango Delta area of Botswana. Photograph by Jodi Cobb/National Geographic Creative.

Onishi implies that the reason lions “are increasingly entering villages looking for livestock,” is that they can no longer “feast on the meat of elephants left behind by hunters.”

Costas Christ, Editor at Large for National Geographic Traveler, was formerly a senior director at Conservation International. He lived and worked in Africa for 14 years and was in Botswana last month when Onishi’s article was published.

In an email, Christ said that the situation is exactly the opposite. “Villagers who know Sankuyo very well” explained “that during the years of legal hunting, when Sankuyo was killing elephants and other big game for trophy sport, the leftover carcasses were dumped on the outskirts of the village, attracting predators such as —> Read More