Anti-hunters will never admit this.
Lions have been coming out of the surrounding bush, prowling around homes and a small health clinic, to snatch goats and donkeys from the heart of this village on the edge of one of Africa’s great inland deltas. Elephants, too, are becoming frequent, unwelcome visitors, gobbling up the beans, maize and watermelons that took farmers months to grow.
Since Botswana banned trophy hunting two years ago, remote communities like Sankuyo have been at the mercy of growing numbers of wild animals that are hurting livelihoods and driving terrified villagers into their homes at dusk.
The hunting ban has also meant a precipitous drop in income. Over the years, villagers had used money from trophy hunters, mostly Americans, to install toilets and water pipes, build houses for the poorest, and give scholarships to the young and pensions to the old.
Calls to curb trophy hunting across Africa have risen since a lion in Zimbabwe, named Cecil by researchers tracking it, was killed in July by an American dentist. Several airlines have stopped transporting trophies from hunts, and lawmakers in New Jersey have introduced legislation that would further restrict their import into the United States.
But in Sankuyo and other rural communities living near the wild animals, many are calling for a return to hunting. African governments have also condemned, some with increasing anger, Western moves to ban trophy hunting.
“Before, when there was hunting, we wanted to protect those animals because we knew we earned something out of them,” said Jimmy Baitsholedi Ntema, a villager in his 60s. “Now we don’t benefit at all from the animals. The elephants and buffaloes leave after destroying our plowing fields during the day. Then, at night, the lions come into our kraals.”
In early 2014, this sparsely populated nation became one of a few African countries with abundant wildlife to put an end to trophy hunting, the practice at the core of conservation efforts in southern Africa. President Seretse Khama Ian Khama of Botswana, a staunch defender of animal rights, stated that hunting was no longer compatible with wildlife conservation and urged communities like Sankuyo to switch to photographic tourism. The decision was cheered by animal welfare groups in the West.