15 March 2005

South African elephants face culling, say animal welfare

South Africa might cull elephants for the first time in a decade. Animal welfare groups say this is cruel and unacceptable, but might be needed to control a surging population.

"We are strongly leaning towards culling and we want the public to digest this hard fact," Hector Magome, director of conservation services for South African National Parks, said on Sunday.

"There is a consensus that we need to reduce the population now in the short term while we look at long-term solutions."

He said a decision should be made by October. His comments are the clearest so far to indicate that conservation officials might push for culling.

They have worried for years about how to prevent elephant herds growing, and many see it as the only effective solution.

Elephants can wreak havoc in their restricted terrain, destroying large areas of trees and making survival hard for other animals with which they share their space.

But culling would be sure to provoke strong protest from animal welfare groups worldwide who argue that elephants are intelligent animals and the practice is cruel.

Before South Africa stopped culling in 1994, scenes of it shown on television provoked an outcry at home and abroad.

Culling typically involves the herding and then shooting of entire family groups - a practice even supporters say is highly unpleasant.

But biologists say the Kruger National Park is in crisis because of rising numbers of the world's largest land mammal.

The Kruger Park is enclosed and its elephants are gradually depleting the available food resources. Other species are suffering as a result.

Since culling was halted in 1994, the park's elephant population is estimated to have swelled to close to 12 000 from about 7 000.

"We are going to publish four proposed options in the Government Gazette in April and invite public comment on them," Magome said.

"We hope to have the final elephant management plan approved by the environment minister by October."

He said the first option was culling, the second was relocation and the third was contraception. The fourth would involve a combination of culling in larger parks and contraception in smaller ones.

Contraception is not practical because of cost, and the limited number of places that can take relocated animals makes that option an inadequate solution.


Post a Comment

<< Home