PRETORIA, South Africa -- Big 5 hunters are rejoicing after two Southern African countries scrapped or relaxed their hunting laws.
Five years after outlawing elephant hunting, Botswana has backtracked its decision, claiming an increased population has started to impact farmers' livelihoods. Wildlife authorities in neighboring Zimbabwe lifted a ban on hunting buffaloes with bows and arrows.
The prohibition on elephant hunting in Botswana was introduced in 2014 by then-president Ian Khama, who was a keen environmentalist. But within months of being succeeded by President Mokgweetsi Masisi last year, a public review was launched.
Lawmakers from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lobbied to overturn the ban, saying numbers have become unmanageable in some areas.
"Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension," the environment ministry said in a statement.
It said a cabinet committee review found that "the number and high levels of human-elephant conflict and the consequent impact on livelihoods was increasing."
The ministry has promised that the hunting of elephants would be reinstated "in an orderly and ethical manner."
Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, with more than 135,000 roaming freely in its parks and wide open spaces.
At the same time, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said the prohibition on hunting buffaloes with bows and arrows has been lifted.
"ZimParks has relaxed conditions relating to the hunting of buffaloes by allowing the use of specific bows and arrows as part of efforts to diversify options for professional hunters and boost revenue from the sport," the agency said in a statement.
Zimbabwe has been at the center of several contentious high-profile hunting incidents.
In 2015, the killing of Cecil the lion sparked international outrage. Cecil, a large black-maned lion, was a well-known animal in a monitoring program and was killed by an American dentist on a hunting trip after he wandered beyond the park's protected boundaries.
Zimbabwe has been capitalizing on its wildlife as a source of revenue. Earlier this month, ZimParks revealed that it made more than $2.7 million from the sale of more than 90 elephants to China and Dubai. The Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said that the money raised from the sale would be used to fund conservation efforts.
While hunting elephants is now legal in Botswana, it remains unlikely that American hunters would be able to bring their trophies home. In 2017, a controversy erupted after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to lift the ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia. After President Donald Trump tweeted his dissatisfaction with the decision, the Fish and Wildlife Service reversed course and decided to evaluate all applications to import elephant trophies from all countries on a case-by-case basis. Since then, no permits have been issued.