SANParks accused of trying to force through elephant cull plans

Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Cape Town, South Africa
South African National Parks (SANParks) appears ready to steamroll its plans to resume culling elephants despite scientific opinion suggesting that there has been insufficient research and that animal welfare and ethical concerns have been ignored.
“IFAW is very concerned that SANParks appears to be presenting a fait accompli in asking the public to prepare itself for the imminent resumption of an elephant cull,” said Jason Bell, Southern Africa Director of IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org).

“In IFAW’s opinion SANParks has had 10 years to come up with an appropriate and scientifically sound management plan for elephants and haven’t done so – now, with their backs against the wall, it seems they are looking for a quick-fix solution for reducing elephant populations.”

Bell was responding to comments by Hector Magome, Director of Conservation Services for SANParks, this weekend in which he said there was “consensus” that elephant populations need to be reduced in the short-term.

Interviewed by Reuters, Magome is quoted as saying: “We are strongly leaning towards culling and we want the public to digest this hard fact.” 

“To claim there is consensus that culling elephants is the only short-term answer to reducing populations is not true. There are many independent scientists who believe that there is no need to reduce the population at this stage. We shouldn’t even be talking about management options right now, rather we should focus on gaining a better understanding of the interactions between elephants and their environment,” said Bell.

“These experts have said time and again that much more research needs to be done before we can properly understand the complexity of the issue. Sound science should be informing the management of Kruger National Park and by dealing with elephants in isolation SANParks are not considering a holistic approach to the management of the Park and its resources as a whole.”

SANParks imposed a moratorium on culling elephant in 1994, largely because of local and international public outcry and the protest of animal welfare organisations like IFAW.

“The comment that the public needs to ‘digest the hard fact’ of the possible resumption of an elephant cull suggests this is a done deal. SANParks need be in no doubt that the South African public and international community will surely not tolerate a call for the resumption of culling, particularly in the light of there being no scientific justification for one,” said Bell.

“IFAW believes culling is a cruel, unethical and scientifically unsound practice that does not consider the welfare implications to elephant society as a whole. SANParks needs to think again.”

Bell said 2005 was turning into a disaster for wild animal conservation.

“It will be seen as the year South Africa legally made its wild life heritage a commodity. The Large Predator bill will effectively legalise commercial breeding for canned hunting of five predator species – including three protected species - and one suspects the same commercial motives will drive the resumption of elephant culling.”

SANParks said its elephant management plans will be open for public comment in April, and finally approved in October 2005.

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