, GABORONE, Botswana, Nov 29 – Botswana, one of Africa’s premier safari destinations, said on Thursday it will ban commercial hunting of wildlife because of a decline in animal populations.
The government has decided to “indefinitely suspend commercial hunting of wildlife in public or controlled hunting areas” from January 1, 2014, the environment ministry said in a statement.
The government of the diamond-rich country stated that the killing of wild game for sport was no longer seen to be “compatible with either our national commitment to conserve and preserve local fauna or the long term growth of the local tourism industry”.
Tourism contributes about 12 percent to Botswana’s gross domestic product.
Hunting concessions in the vast southern African country currently exist in the Okavango Delta and in parks in the Kalahari region, famous for its high-end tourism facilities.
The country boasts large numbers of big game like elephant, lion and buffalo, but the government has voiced concern over a sharp decline in some species.
“If left unchecked this decline poses a genuine threat to both the conservation of our natural heritage and the long term health of the local tourist industry which currently ranks second to diamonds in terms of its revenue earnings,” the ministry said.
It added that individual licences for specific game, in specific circumstances, would be assessed.
The ban was foreshadowed by President Ian Khama in his state of the nation address last month.
Earlier this year Spanish King Juan Carlos, 74, went on what was to become an infamous elephant hunting trip in Botswana’s northern Okavango region.
The trip attracted widespread criticism back home, as the country was battling an economic decline.
His expedition was cut short after he suffered a hip injury.