It's official - Botswana has doubled the quota on elephant for the 1998 season, meaning the country will have approximately 100 jumbo on license. The move is considered a good one in some respects and not so good in others. On the positive side, Botswana certainly has enough elephants to support this level of harvest. In fact, many observers say the country's thundering herd needs to be reduced by much more than 100, if not through hunting then through culling. At any rate, the increased harvest will mean more funding for wildlife management in Botswana and more hunting opportunity overall. Moreover, the increased quota promises to have a dramatic effect on the cost of some Botswana elephant hunts, which have been by far the highest in Africa since the country opened two years ago. Specifically, what seems to be evolving is a lower cost structure overall with a graduated trophy fee. Ronnie McFarlane of Micheletti Bates Safaris, for example, says he plans to offer a 10-day non-trophy elephant hunt for $24,000 in 1998. That price moves up to $30,000 for a jumbo weighing between 50 and 60 pounds; to $34,000 for a 60 to 70-pounder; and to $40,000 for a 70-plus pounder.
The downside in all this is the effect the increased quota may have on Botswana's reputation for producing good quality trophies. Critics of the expanded quota say the country indeed has worlds of elephants but, like every other country in Africa, a limited number of truly big bulls. Botswana should have limited the new quota to jumbo under 50 pounds, these critics say, predicting a dramatic fall-off in trophy quality within a few years. Mark Kyriakou of Bird Safaris, who heads the Management Committee of the Botswana Operators and Professional Hunters Association, says just such a two-tiered quota may be created as early as next year. In the meantime, he says Botswana continued to produce good trophies this past year, winding up with a seasonal average weight of 58 to 59 pounds. Pressed to provide more details on the season, he said the Association had voted not to release precise data on........(continued)