big tusker killed botswana
90-pounder elephant hunted recently in northern Botswana. Faces have been obscured for legal reasons – in accordance with privacy and defamation laws. Photo supplied

One of the last of Africa’s iconic big tuskers has been killed by a trophy hunter in Botswana. The iconic elephant was one of Botswana’s few ‘hundred-pounder’ elephants, which refers to those elephants with at least one tusk weighing 100 pounds (45kg).

In fact, this elephant was extraordinary because he had about 200 pounds (90kg) of ivory on him, which made him a true icon and star for viewing tourists… who shoot nothing but photographs and videos.

Instead, the big tusker – which played a critically important role for stability in the elephant community (and for that essential wildlife tourism) – has been killed for his tusks. This is the largest elephant to be hunted in Botswana since 1996, according to Wildlife at Risk International.

“It is incomprehensible that one of the last great tuskers of Africa – said to number less than 40 – has been slaughtered as a trophy for a fee,” Dr Audrey Delsink, wildlife director of Humane Society International / Africa, said today.

The Times reported this week that the trophy hunter, who travelled to Botswana from an unnamed location, paid $50,000 to hunt and kill the elephant.

Hsi Africa’s Delsink says: “There is no replacing the intrinsic value that this extraordinary, majestic being contributed to elephant society, genetics and natural history. Make no mistake – this once living icon was mowed down in the prime of his life, for the sake of a record book entry. This elephant’s death is not only a travesty on a biological scale, but an indication that man’s moral compass is in serious need of realignment.”

Botswana’s former president Ian Khama was reportedly outraged at the news. Khama had banned trophy hunting elephants, but his successor allowed trophy hunting for elephants to become legal again in Botswana in 2019.

After hearing the devastating news, Teresa Telecky – Vice President, wildlife, Humane Society International – said in a statement on Friday:

“Killing such a magnificent animal for amusement is a moral and ecological tragedy. This elephant was an important influence in his herd and to the future of its younger males. Along with other big tuskers, he represented the promise and reality of exciting, educational and breathtaking wildlife viewing tourism as a dynamic revenue source for Botswana and other range nations.

« Trophy hunters must end their bogus, false claims that the money they pay for their so-called thrill to kill helps human communities. Their downright cruelty is not about helping anyone but about someone’s sick desire to hang a head in the living room. »

For further reading, please see HSI/Africa’s Trophy Hunting by the Numbers report here.

Dream Out Loud Productions, a charity involved in documenting the plight of elephant refugees, said another elephant has also been killed in Botswana for its tusks this month (April 2022). The charity posted the following information and photos:

Dream Out Loud Productions added: « It is not clear why some trophy hunters, who bleat about how they only hunt because they love nature, would seek to shoot the remaining big tuskers. It is also unclear why an animal with big tusks is more rewarding to shoot than one with smaller tusks – the tracking, risks, etc., are the same. There is nothing more dangerous or difficult about hunting a big tusker compared with a tusk less animal.«