The Safari Club International in Calgary is auctioning off a trip to hunt elephants in Botswana as part of a fundraiser. The hunt, which is licensed by the Botswana government, is labelled as a method to control the elephant population within the country. Canadian club's elephant hunting trip up for auction is shocking animal rights groups. They're speaking out, saying that hunting elephants as a way to control overpopulation is unethical and unnecessary.

According to the auction page, tickets are starting at $63,000 USD. Bidding begins on Saturday, January 25, outside the Westin Calgary Airport Hotel. The trip is being organized by Kwalate Safaris.

David Little, president of the Calgary branch of the Safari Club International (SCI), said the auctions have been happening for 25 years. They regularly auction hunts and animal trophies, he said.

"The number of elephants in Botswana are at carrying capacity," he said to Narcity. "They're tearing their own ecosystem apart."

Reports say there are currently around 130,000 elephants in Botswana, making up almost a third of Africa's elephant population.

The Botswana government has licensed the hunt, writing in a press release that higher elephant populations lead to "high levels of human-elephant conflict" and greater numbers of predators in the region.

They call for foreign hunters due to a lack of capacity in their wildlife department to control the elephant population.

Heather Anderson and Trevor Miller of the Calgary Animal Rights Effort (CARE) are skeptical of the elephant population estimates.

"I don't think the numbers are like they're saying they are," said Anderson to Narcity. "I don't think the [elephant] population in the world is anywhere near where there should be a culling on them."

According to Miller and Anderson, hunting should not be used to control the elephant population. Miller said contraception should be used instead.

"There are plenty of contraceptive and sterilization programs that are being used with mammals and other wild animals around the world. What they involve is treating these individuals with a little bit of respect," he said.

However, Little argues that hunting is a common and effective method of maintaining animal populations. 

"Every jurisdiction in Canada, provincial and national, use hunting as a tool to control wildlife populations," he said.

Little calls the criticism to his elephant hunt neocolonialist.

"Most of the reaction is from North Americans and mostly Canadians. And for these people to presume to tell the Botswana Government how they should manage their elephants is so detached from reality," he said.

Miller shot back, saying Little and SCI are being hypocritical by travelling to Botswana and hunting elephants.

"He's the one who's from a developed country, who can fly somewhere and have this cheap form of entertainment, with no consideration for local culture, no consideration for local wildlife," said Miller. "It's a perfect example of neocolonialist trophy hunting."

Other items in the auction include nyala hunts in South Africa, animal skins, and Cape buffalo hunts in Zimbabwe.

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