For millions of years, elephants have undertaken seasonal migrations, following the rains that nourish the foliage they eat. Along the way, they reshape the landscapes, fertilize the meadows essential to countless herbivores and participate in the sequestration of carbon by spreading seeds.
One of their main dispersal routes as they move from the Okavango Delta and central Botswana is north along the Kwando River into Namibia, Angola and Zambia and the Okavango Delta at the Chobe River. These areas offer some of the finest wildlife tourism views in the world.
One of these corridors, NG13 (NG stands for Ngamiland), was recently declared open for trophy hunting. Last month, one of the elephants with the largest tusks were shot there by an American client of professional hunter Leon Kachelhoffer, acting on behalf of Derek Brink (of Derek Brink Holdings), one of the wealthiest men in Botswana. The huge animal had tusks weighing 48 kg (105.8 lb). The hunt has sparked outrage from conservationists around the world.
Another elephant, with tusks almost as big, was shot in NG41 in the Delta-Chobe corridor under the direction of professional hunter Johan Calitz who, in 2001, had his license suspended due to alleged illegal conduct within his outfit while on a hunt.
His Qorokwe Lodge in NG32 is listing seamlessly as a Wilderness Safaris branded camp and is booked through the company. The Wilderness website describes it as having a well-deserved reputation as a top safari destination in Botswana, but reveals no connection to its professional hunter owner.
At its opening, Wilderness Safaris Botswana Managing Director Kim Nixon said: “We are delighted to partner with the Calitz family to reveal this exclusive new land camp and private concession – a highly valued game viewing area. productive that has not been used. over the past four years. »
Another hunt planned
In a PodcastResponding to criticism of the NG13 hunt, Kachelhoffer’s dishonest response to Blood Origins host Robbie Kroger was “when you take a bull like that, there’s a lot of remorse, there’s a lot of sadness, you think of the good life this elephant has LED.”
According to the Tcheku Community Trust, he will return to NG13 with a client on May 28 to shoot another super-tusker.
Masisi’s government has given many reasons for the resumption of hunting after the previous president, Ian Khama, banned it in 2014. It claims there are too many elephants, it causes human conflict- animals and that hunting supports the local population.
There are counter-arguments. Aerial surveys have shown that Botswana’s elephant population has been stable for many years, NG13 is sparsely populated and there has been no conflict with elephants. In an area devoid of people other than a few cattle posts, this is clearly not an argument that holds water. Nor the assertion that the former bulls are redundant.
Humane Society-Africa wildlife director Dr Audrey Delsink said Botswana’s management choices like hunting in migratory corridors could have devastating consequences for passing elephants.
“Trophy hunters mainly hunt the biggest and oldest elephants. Targeting these elephants is extremely detrimental to the population as they provide critically important ecological and social knowledge and contribute to the survival of the whole group. Older bulls control musth in younger, inexperienced bulls that otherwise exhibit delinquent behavior.
“A 2014 study in the Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area found that at the current rate of hunting, under average ecological conditions, trophy bulls would disappear from the population in less than 10 years, with ripple effects that will go far into the area target and population, for many generations. ”
Another issue is the extent to which communities benefit. Kachelhoffer paid the Tcheku Community Trust 200,000 pesos for each elephant, or about $16,500. For an elephant of this size, the cost to the customer can be between $80,000 and $100,000.
The value of an elephant does not only depend on who is paid and how much. Trophy hunting sells elephants well below their value and is essentially theft for the tourism industry and carbon sequestration. A study of Sheldrick Wildlife Trust calculated only at the time of study, an elephant can be worth $30,000 as a trophy, and if poached, its ivory on the black market will fetch $21,000. As a living elephant, its value for tourism over its lifetime is said to be over $1.6 million. This means that an elephant is worth 53 times more alive than in trophy form.
By nature of their browsing and composting, elephants also sequester carbon by thinning trees and spreading seeds to generate new growth. This way they maintain optimal carbon capacity and oxygen generation in the landscape. Valued in carbon credits at a minimum of $15 a ton, the study estimates that 415,000 savannah elephants are worth $86.6 billion, or more than $200,000 each. Add forest elephants and that jumps to $129.6 billion.
Seen in this light, says environmental economist Ross Harvey, justifying an elephant trophy hunt at, say, $46,000 would seem economically absurd. But for trophy hunting outfitters, it’s money in the bank.
Hunting may now be legal in Botswana, but is hunting Africa’s last tusks in one of Africa’s most important wildlife corridors ethical? Hunters like Johan Calitz and Leon Kachelhoffer would, in all likelihood, argue that legal means ethical.
Derek Brink, one of Botswana’s richest men, owns a 50% stake in Spar Supermarkets in Botswana and owns Senn Foods, Botswana’s largest processed meat producer. He is the largest landowner with farms in the Tuli Block and is Kachelhoffer’s boss. Together they recently purchased hunting rights to NG13 from the local community.
NG13 Tcheku Community Trust Chairman Peter Kerapetse Bantu said the community had a quota for four elephants and they sold it and the rights to the area to Brink and Kachelhoffer.
“NG13 hasn’t been hunted since the beginning,” he said, “so this area has been the hiding place for these big elephants. There was never any plowing of the fields, only a few cattle stakes along the buffalo fence. But there are waterholes and these elephants can live there undisturbed. We are therefore not shocked that such large elephants are there.
He said the hunt took place near the boundary of NG14 which includes the Kwando River corridor. There are now three elephants left in the quota. Keckelhoffer phoned to tell Bantu he would be coming with a client on the 28th May 2022. “US customer I think.”
Undermine the Halls of Kaza
The problem with allowing hunting in the Kwando Corridor, which includes NG13, is that it undermines a five-country initiative on wildlife access routes and will create landscapes of fear, blocking migration routes in the 30km bottleneck in Bwabwata National Park in Namibia.
Likewise, the hunt in NG41 places the guns on the critical migration route between the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park and Zimbabwe.
The areas where both hunts took place are part of the Kavango Zambezi (Kaza) Visionary Transfrontier Conservation Area, a large area spanning five countries established to protect migration corridors.
The initiative aims to create one of the most important wildlife refuges in Africa. It is the largest transboundary conservation area in the world, spanning approximately 520,000 km2 (almost the size of France) and covers the Okavango and Zambezi river basins where the borders of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet.
It comprises 36 national parks, game reserves, community reserves and game management areas, including Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta (a Ramsar site) and Victoria Falls (a World Heritage Site).
Tourists and hunting
Then there is the question of the perspective of hunting and tourism. Johan Calitz Safaris claims to be Africa’s largest elephant hunter, with 95 elephants on quota each year. For five consecutive years, it has boasted the highest ivory average of any outfitter in the country.
Still Qorokwe Lodge, owned by Calitz, is marketed by Wilderness Safaris. This is a company that prides itself on ethical tourism sold to high-income customers and majority owned by The Rise Fund, whose members read like a Who’s Who of billionaire philanthropists.
They include singer Bono, Richard Branson, Laurene Powell Jobs (wife of Steve Jobs of Apple), eBay founder Jeff Skoll, Mellody Hobson (wife of Starwars creator George Lucas) and chairman of Starbucks, the chairman of Linkedin Reid Hoffman, Anand Mahindra who chairs the Mahindra Motor Corporation and Paul Polman, former president of Procter & Gamble and currently American chief financial officer of Nestlé.
Do they know that their company is marketing a lodge belonging to one of Africa’s greatest trophy hunters? Probably not. But when tourists make reservations through Wilderness Safaris, they should keep this in mind.
Meanwhile, Calitz and Kachelhoffer will be cleaning their guns as they await the arrival of foreign patrons eager to hang huge, boast-worthy trophies on their walls. DM/OBP
Our Burning Planet has sought comment from Calitz, Kachelhoffer and Qorokwe Lodge and will update this story if and when such comment is received.