Costa Rica is now the first country in the Americas to ban sport hunting, and Botswana becomes at least the third country to ban hunting in Africa.
The Costa Rican ban is the result of a campaign by the Association for the Preservation of Flora and Fauna (Apreflofas), a Costa Rican environmental group that gathered 177,000 signatures to put the proposal before their congress, which voted unanimously in favor of the ban in December of 2012. President Laura Chinchilla is expected to sign the measure into law. Gino Biamonte, president of Apreflofas, states, "It's completely anti-democratic to allow an activity that goes against the good of most of the population [to benefit] the very few." There are exceptions, however, for culling overpopulated animals and subsistence hunting by indigenous peoples. The head of a local hunting group plans to challenge the ban in court. The hunting ban is the first proposal to come before the country's congress through the new popular initiative process.
Costa Rica is known for its ecotourism, eco-consciousness, and biodiversity; and 25% of the nation is already protected as national parks and nature reserves. In 2009, it was named the happiest and greenest country in the world.
The environment ministry of Botswana announced in November of 2012 that it will "indefinitely suspend commercial hunting of wildlife in public or controlled hunting areas" as of January 1, 2014, according to The West Australian. Additionally, no new hunting permits will be issued for 2013. The government no longer views hunting as "compatible with either our national commitment to conserve and preserve local fauna or the long term growth of the local tourism industry." A limited amount of traditional hunting by locals will still be allowed. Botswana is known for being home to large megafauna, including elephants, lions, leopards, cape buffalo and rhinos; as well as crocodiles, wild dogs and hundreds of species of birds.
Hunting proponents have been quick to criticize Botswana's decision, and claim that hunting is necessary to enforce conservation laws. Hunters, their guides and other entourage take it upon themselves to police the area and combat poaching. And because hunting brings in revenue, it creates an incentive for locals to conserve the animals, so the argument goes.
However, Botswana's government is counting on increased eco-tourism to create that incentive and discourage poaching.
Botswana is not the first country in Africa to ban hunting. Hunting was banned in Tanzania from 1972 to 1978. Kenya's 1977 ban on hunting is still in place. Niger's environment ministry called for a ban on hunting in 2001, but it appears that country's ban was either never enacted or short-lived.
Israel considered a ban on sport hunting in 2010, but that ban has yet to be enacted into law.
Photo courtesy of George Lin, Planet Neptune.
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