From Calibers to Cameras: Botswana's ban on trophy hunting and consequences for the socioecological landscape of Ngamiland district

Open Access
Hann, Erica Christine
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Brian King, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Botswana
  • trophy hunting
  • conservation
  • livelihood practices
  • socioecological systems
On January 1, 2014, a ban on all trophy hunting took effect in the southern African nation of Botswana. The ban was motivated by a 2011 aerial survey of wildlife populations which found statistically significant declines in eleven large mammal species. The decision to eliminate hunting marked a pronounced change from previous decades of wildlife management that included hunting and photographic concession. This shift in resource management is particularly important in the Ngamiland district of Northern Botswana in which over half of all residents are employed in the tourism industry. Trophy hunting, including of iconic and endangered species such as the African elephant (Loxodonta Africana), was previously permitted in Ngamiland and brought significant economic benefits to local communities, safari operators, and the national government. The role of hunting as a tool of conservation and importance of hunting-based tourism as a livelihood practice has been a subject of debate within and beyond Botswana for decades. Thus, there is considerable uncertainty around the types and severity of impacts the hunting ban will produce for both social and ecological systems. This thesis examines these impacts through a mixed methods approach including twenty-two semi- structured interviews and archival data collection as well as remote sensing analysis of vegetation patterns in Ngamiland. Results demonstrate considerable spatial variability both among perceptions of the ban, as well as vegetation patterns across the landscape. This suggests a significant degree of socioecological heterogeneity not recognized by a homogenous resource management policy such as the hunting ban. It also suggests an uneven ability among concessions to transition successfully to photographic-based tourism, potentially weakening incentives for conservation in certain areas.