Elephant culling proposed as a last resort by DEAT

Enironmental affairs and tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has proposed that culling be used to reduce the size of an elephant population – but only once other management options have been considered.
Issue Date 16 March 2007

Enironmental affairs and tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has proposed that culling be used to reduce the size of an elephant population – but only once other management options have been considered.

The other options currently being considered by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and expressed in the recently gazetted Draft Norms and Standards for Elephant Management in South Africa, are: range manipulation through methods such as water supply management; removal by translocation; introduction of elephants; and contraception.

R udi van Aarde, a zoologist at the University of Pretoria who participated in the science round table which was involved in drawing up the draft document, emphasised that culling has been demoted to a last resort, as this method is ineffective. “The cause of the problem, not the symptoms should be treated, and culling will only treat the symptoms,” he said. Van Aarde said contraception will prevent reproduction, but animals will continue feeding and the impact on vegetation will remain unchanged.

He suggested that dropping fences and distribution of water are more efficient management options supported by present-day ecological theory. Dropping fences will stimulate seasonal movement patterns of elephants and give natural vegetation time to recover. H e said it seems that the distribution of water in the Kruger National Park is also to blame as it restricts the movement of elephants and reduces infant mortality in times of drought. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) applauded the government’s extensive consultative process and its attempt to consider all points of view before making a final decision.

Dr Rob Little, acting chief executive of the WWF of South Africa, said “although the does not advocate culling as the preferred management alternative, we recognise it is a management option and reiterate our view that all options should first be explored.” SANParks declined to comment on how it currently manages populations. – Wilma den Hartigh Written comments on the policy can be submitted until 4 May 2007. Contact Thea Carroll on (012) 310 3799 or e-mail [email protected]