CORRESPONDENCE

Foster local expertise in Botswana’s elephant-hunting debate

Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

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Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

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Botswana International University of Science and Technology, Palapye, Botswana.
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The government’s decision in Botswana to lift its ban on wildlife hunting could reintroduce the contentious trophy hunting of elephants. This controversy has highlighted the need for the voices of local experts.

Foreign conservationists and animal-welfare groups condemn Botswana’s policy shift, advocating the use of non-lethal methods to control elephants (see A. D. Wallach et al. Conserv. Biol. 32, 1255–1265; 2018). However, local communities welcome it as a means to protect human life, subsistence-farmed crops and livestock (J. E. Mbaiwa S. Afr. Geogr. J. 100, 41–61; 2018).

Local ecologists would be better placed to understand the tensions, but this specialist expertise is scarce. As a result, expert engagement is dominated by foreigners (see, for example, go.nature.com/2jkyefb). This has robbed the discussion of a much-needed local perspective and generated a mistrust of the science produced by international experts and of the motives behind it. Correcting this scarcity would command international respect and be a great service to the people and wildlife of Botswana.

Nature 573, 346 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02773-4

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