A former African president who banned trophy hunting has urged MPs to attend a vital vote next week “to halt the reckless, cruel destruction of the world’s wonderful wildlife by nature’s enemies.”
Ian Khama, 70, who criminalised trophy-hunting in 2014 during his decade in office as the president of Botswana, warned that every day without a ban on imports took elephants nearer to extinction.
He also brought in a shoot-to-kill policy on poachers but current president Mokgweetsi Masisi overturned the ban and disbanded anti-poaching units.
He has now joined the Mirror’s campaign to end exports and urged MP’s to attend next Friday’s vote saying: “Britain will gain a great deal of international respect by acting on this issue and should be a voice of conscience in the world.”
He added: “The UK should strive to do all it can to help protect our shared natural heritage.”
“The world’s wildlife is in crisis. There were 200,000 lions in the 1970s – now there may be just 10,000-20,000. There are fewer than 7,000 cheetahs.
“The number of black rhinos is 3,000. The numbers of polar bears, elephants and leopards are declining and all face a very real danger of becoming extinct. Yet it remains perfectly legal for anyone to claim they are a trophy hunter and shoot one of these magnificent creatures for their own entertainment.”
His plea comes as MPs gear up for a vote on Friday with Mirror readers being asked to help support by contacting their local representative urging them to attend.
”Trophy hunters lure endangered animals out of national parks where they are protected so they can get away with killing them. They shoot the best male specimens for the best trophies thus seriously damaging the structure and gene pool in lions and elephants for generations,” he said.
“These people are shameless. Surely for a white hunter to fly to Africa to kill our endangered animals for pleasure and pose next to them grinning is the most colonial thing you can possibly imagine?
“African people are not allowed to kill those animals even if they are hungry. Yet rich white British and American hunters feel it is their God-given right to bear arms and kill animals for ‘sport’, selfies and souvenirs.”
“The industry is rich and powerful, and will stop at nothing to get its way. We must not allow these people to win.”
Khama, who was born in Chertsey, Surrey, said that during his time in office Botswana lost just one rhino to poachers and in 2018 the African nation had twice as many elephants as any other country on the continent.
He explained: “We knew photo safaris were a much better alternative. They protect the animals from poachers because there are tour parties out all the time. They bring more opportunities for people.
“And it meant we were playing our part in preserving our planet. To kill an animal simply for a ‘trophy’ is immoral. Humans have no right to do this.”
The former president said that areas that had been devoid of any wildlife saw animals return after his ban on hunting. Elephants which had also come to associate people and vehicles with killing were no longer hostile “because they weren’t being persecuted any more”.
He added: ”I had deployed the military to take on the poachers. Yet just down the road, you had trophy hunters shooting the very same animals. It made no sense to tell soldiers to protect elephants from poachers when they were being simultaneously shot by trophy hunters.”
He pleaded: “We must all work together to halt the reckless, cruel destruction of the world’s wonderful wildlife by nature’s enemies – the trophy hunters.”
This article by Nada Farhoud was first published by The Mirror on 12 March 2023. Lead Image: Manish Ghelabhai, a Norfolk gas engineer poses with a lion he killed on a hunting trip in South Africa (Image: Collect Unknown).
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