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GABORONE, Botswana. — Botswana has scrapped its ban on hunting, citing an increase in conflicts between elephants and humans during the five years the rule was in place.

The southern African nation, which is home to 130,000 elephants — or around one third of the continent’s population — imposed the ban in 2014 to deter poaching.

But while the elephants are popular with wildlife-loving tourists, locals have complained that they damage crops and affect livelihoods.

“Predators appear to have increased and were causing a lot of damage as they kill livestock in large numbers,” the environment ministry statement said in Facebook postWednesday.

The African elephant — which is classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List — is increasingly coming into contact with humans as its natural habitat shrinks.

That has led to elephants raiding crops, killing livestock, destroying water supplies — and sometimes even injuring and killing people, according to the IUCN.

In June last year, Botswana set up a cabinet sub-committee to review the ban on hunting. Local authorities, affected communities, NGOs, tourism operators and conservationists were consulted, the ministry said in its post.

Earlier this year, ministers in Botswana recommended lifting the ban and allowing the canning of elephant meat for pet food.

But conservationists have warned that the species could become extinct if its not protected.

Before European colonization, scientists believe Africa may have held as many as 20 million elephants. By 1979 only 1.3 million remained. The first Great Elephant Census, a pan-African survey conducted in 2016, revealed that in just seven years between 2007 and 2014 elephant numbers plummeted by at least 30{fa7adc80df2e023940cc66418ee6bf3ea4951b478396a103014e7d5f7d7da9d3}, or 144,000.

(PHOTO: Amarury Hauchard/Getty Images)