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Planet Ark World Environment News South Africa Should Consider Elephant Cull - WWF

Date: 26-Feb-07
Country: SOUTH AFRICA
Author: Stella Mapenzauswa

"What has happened in the last 10 years is that protected areas ... had elephant numbers grow to where they are actually suppressing the habitat, the vegetation," Rob Little, acting chief executive of WWF South Africa, told Reuters late on Friday.

"We believe that the culling may be a last resort, and should usually be regarded as a last resort, but it should be available as a option."

Little was speaking in advance of the unveiling on Wednesday of a new elephant management plan by South Africa's environmental affairs and tourism ministry.

The WWF has made recommendations towards the plan, which is expected to include a resumption of culling to cut growing elephant numbers in the country's flagship Kruger National Park and other reserves.

Last year South Africa postponed a controversial policy to resume culling elephants in Kruger in the face of vocal opposition from some conservationists who say the practice, which involves the rounding up and shooting of entire family groups, is cruel.

Some critics also question the validity of the science used to justify the practice. They argue that other plant-eating animals, which are smaller in size but exist in bigger numbers, would move into areas left vacant by slaughtered elephants and have a similar impact on vegetation.

Government scientists have said the elephants at Kruger have swelled to well over 12,000 since culling was stopped in 1994 after a public outcry. Numbers have also risen in other smaller parks.

Over the past decade South Africa has tried to manage growing elephant numbers in the country through tranferring herds to new areas and in some cases, expanding protected areas.

"What we have said was that the nations that have elephants that are signatories to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) must be allowed to take wise, sound scientific-based decisions on the management of the species," said Little.

The option of elephant contraception may also be considered.

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Reuters
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