MEDIA RELEASE – Senior Scientists speak out against elephant culling
Despite numerous statements advising the contrary by the foremost scientists in the field, the SA government has inexplicably decided to end the moratorium on elephant culling.
Prof. John Skinner, President of the Royal Society of South Africa, summarized the scientists’ frustration by publicly exclaiming: “There is not a shred of evidence in published scientific literature to demonstrate that elephant are affecting the biodiversity in the Kruger National Park”.
Yet, the authorities persist in the unfounded claim that there is in fact an elephant overpopulation problem that management is necessary, and that steps such as non-hormonal contraception are not sufficient to address this supposed problem. Prof Bertschinger of Onderstepoort has made great progress implementing this non-traumatic procedure.
Even as “an option of last resort”, the culling of elephants in Kruger Park and elsewhere must be seen as totally unwarranted. The scientific advisory board of the Earth Organization has produced evidence that, for example:
* The artificial water-holes introduced by SANParks cause burgeoning static populations.
* There is no factual general habitat carrying capacity for elephant.
* Damage to flora is inflicted chiefly by lone bulls outside the herd.
* Many trees in fact need to be jostled for regeneration (recent findings published in Nature confirm this).
* Flora in general recovers from elephant damage within five years.
* More and more lasting damage is being caused by impala, for example, than by elephants.
* Elephants return in greater numbers to areas where culling has taken place.
* The concept of vast continuous ranges, e.g. as proposed by Prof Rudi van Aarde, holds great promise.
Experts in other fields have pointed out that there will be negative economic and public relations ramifications for the country. The consequences of reintroducing culling in terms of tourism could adversely effect perceptions of the World Cup in 2010. Clearly, the position adopted by government is that the profits to be gained from culling, as quantified by the SANParks scientists, are preferable to all the cruelty, trauma and losses to the country’s image culling will cause.