Authorities in Zimbabwe have revealed plans to sell rights to hunt at least 500 endangered elephants this year.
Tinashe Farawo, spokesperson of Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority cited declining tourism revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the main reason for the move.
"We eat what we kill. We have a budget of about $25 million for our operations which is raised—partly—through sports hunting, but you know tourism is as good as dead at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic," he told CNN.
The right to shoot an elephant will cost trophy hunters between $10,000 and $70,000, depending on the size of the animal, Farawo said in a separate interview.
Money raised through the arrangement will help fund the upkeep of Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped national parks.
Environmentalists have criticized Zimbabwe over plans to profit from elephant hunting but Farowo maintains they had no choice.
“How do we fund our operations, how do we pay our men and women who spend 20 days in the bush looking after these animals?” he posed.
“Those who are opposed to our management mechanism should instead be giving us the funding to manage better these animals.”
Zimbabwe has the second biggest elephant population in the world after neighboring Botswana.
The announcement comes weeks after the African forest elephant was declared critically endangered and the African savanna elephant was declared endangered.