Botswana’s Elephant Problem – Just How Do You Make Wild Elephants Valuable?


Things that human beings find valuable tend to increase in number, things that humans find valueless tend to decrease. Things that humans find costly – which have negative value to humans – tend to disappear. In these simple statements of fact we have the basic problem faced by Botswana over their elephant population. And thus this proposal for a cull, those elephants culled being turned into pet food.

Somehow, that Botswanan elephant population has to be turned into something which produces value for Botswanans. Otherwise that elephant population will disappear over time. Just because that’s the way we humans are.

Botswana may lift elephant hunting ban and turn culled animals into pet food There would be a great deal more value if the tusks could be turned into ornaments of course. Conservationists have expressed “huge disappointment” after the government of Botswana’s said it would consider lifting a ban on hunting elephants and turning culled beasts into meat. The recommendations were made in a report presented to president Mokgweetsi Masisi late on Thursday. Botswana has around 130,000 elephants, the largest population in the world, and has long been hailed as a safe refuge for the species amid an Africa-wide poaching crisis. But some Botswanan MPs argue the population is out of control and presents a danger to the lives and livelihoods of small scale farmers.

130,000 elephants have a certain detrimental effect upon the livelihoods of peasant scale farmers – still most in Botswana. That is, there’s a negative cost to having them around. That’s going to lead to a tendency that the elephants disappear.

Yes, of course, elephants can also have a positive value. It’s possible to charge us rich westerners to go and see the elephants in Botswana, obviously enough. And there’s certainly enough of us who insist that the mere existence of elephants somewhere is of value to us.

But the preservation or not of those herds is going to depend upon the net value of their existence being positive for those they exist among. The entire trick, the game if you wish, is to engineer a rise in the positive value of existence so as to create that net positive.

For, whatever the shoulds and oughtas, only those things which have a positive capturable value to humans will survive being among humans. Killing some to make pet food seems one possible way. Allowing trophy shooting of the old bulls perhaps – elephants being matriarchal and bulls being in oversupply. Ivory would be even better if it weren’t for the stupidity displayed on the subject.

Hell, even taxing Greenpeace to buy the land the elephants roam upon would work.

But to all opponents of the pet food scheme. What, exactly, is your plan to produce that positive value? Because it really is only that that’s going to preserve the herds.