Cull Kruger's elephants, say wildlife groups

Seven major conservation and wildlife NGOs in South Africa say culling elephants in the Kruger National Park must be considered.

“As wildlife conservationists we can’t focus on an individual [elephant]. We look at the bigger picture of conservation and biodiversity,” the conservation director at WWF South Africa, Rob Little, told the Mail & Guardian Online on Friday.

A report from the South African National Parks (SANParks) board in July this year proposed culling between 5 000 and 7 000 elephants.
The report said the elephants are damaging the biodiversity of the Kruger National Park.

After the release of the report, a group called Elephants Alive—representing more than 100 wildlife groups in South Africa—was formed to oppose the culling proposal.

Professor Gerhard Verdoorn, director of BirdLife SA, told Afrikaans newspaper Beeld on Friday that there is enough evidence of elephants threatening the Kruger National Park’s biodiversity. 

Other groups that distance themselves from Elephants Alive but agree with SANParks are the Botanical Society of South Africa, the Elephant Managers and Owners Association, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa and the Wilderness Foundation.

“[Elephants Alive] say that culling is not an option, full stop. We say that culling must be retained as a short-term option. And yes, this is a difference between conservationists and wildlife organisations [showing here],” said Little.

In a press release, the seven conservation groups say “some elephant populations have grown to such extent that immediate action is necessary” and “current evidence suggests that we do not have the luxury of excessive time delays.”

Following a meeting with Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk on November 28, NGOs, activists and interest groups have had the opportunity to put forward arguments about the proposed elephant culling.

Little said there are two differences between Elephants Alive and WWF SA and the other six conservation groups.

“These seven NGOs are approaching the whole issue of conservation of elephant population. The animal rights groups don’t see culling as an option and dramatise the debate for fund-raising and their own interest.”

Michele Pickover, from Xwe African Wildlife, one of the groups represented by Elephants Alive, told the M&G Online earlier this week: “They [SANParks] have an economic interest. That is, the selling of ivory. South Africa is one of the biggest movers of ivory in Africa.

“They give a spin on it by saying that they give it to the communities; because they ‘benefit from it’. What communities are they talking about and isn’t this a minuscule thing? Rather do contraception. It is more durable, but it obviously doesn’t suit their interest.”

Pickover also argued that there “is no problem with elephants. SANParks had a spin on this. The media covered what they said and now, if you ask someone in the streets, they will say that there are too many elephants. It’s in the national psyche, but not true.

“And they twist it by saying it is better from an ecological perspective, but this is also not true. Other elephants will take the place of the killed ones. Culling is not the solution; it actually adds to the problem.”

The Elephants Alive group could not be reached for new comments on Friday afternoon.

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