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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Elephant Management Policy & Elephant Culling: Opposing view

Last month’s post on South African National Park’s (SANPark’s) new Elephant Management Policy presented some background on elephant populations and their management as well as an outline of the new 2008 SANParks Elephant Management Policy. This was more or less a summary of SANPark’s position and it is fitting to present some alternative views.

The most controversial aspect of the new policy is probably that it re-introduces elephant culling. Culling was extensive in Kruger National Park (KNP) between 1967 and 1994. In 1994 it was challenged by Animal Rights Scientists and a moratorium was placed on culling. An agreement was made in 1996 to cull only in certain impact areas but was never implemented.

Culling is presented by SANParks as being one of a number of methods necessary to control elephant populations and makes a point of it needing to be implemented “with caution and after all other alternatives have been considered”. Of course not everyone feels that it’s necessary. Many people believe that it is really being implemented for economic reasons. SANParks clearly recognizes the economic benefits. The SANParks policy includes the following statement: “Because elephants are efficient converters of bulk plant materials into secondary products sought after by man the principle of sustainable use of these products should be permitted”. Revenue is generated from the animal parts and a stockpile of valuable ivory could lead to pressure to market the product despite the current ban on ivory trade.

One alternative to culling presented by scientists is contraception. It is included in SANParks policy but some claim it should replace culling entirely. Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation says “Leading scientists have reported that it costs around £50 to contracept each elephant. If you look at the number of reproductively viable female elephants in Kruger (roughly 3,700-4,500) that means that for between £180,000 and £225,000, a contraception programme could be implemented throughout Kruger National Park. For a country with a GDP that outstrips most other African economies more than ten-fold, (SA GDP 2005 US 239 billion) this is peanuts. I have no doubt the authorities could afford it if they really wanted to”.

For additional reading on this topic see:
South Africa lifts ban on Culling, Born Free Foundation
Summary for Policy Makers, Assessment of South African Elephant Management, 2007
A scientific perspective on the management of elephants in the Kruger National Park and elsewhere.
South African Journal of Science 102, September/October 2006
Elephants face a bleak and Cruel future in Southern Africa, Animal Rights Africa
Roar Africa Blog posts:
- Elephant Management Policy, SANParks
- Green Hunting of Elephants
- Mac’s Migration

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