SENIOR SCIENTISTS REMAIN OPPOSED TO ELEPHANT CULL
In fact it is the decision to cull that is based on emotion, not the other way round, he said. Credible science demonstrates that the cull is unnecessary.
The public is being asked to accept an unpopular decision which has no support whatsoever amongst South Africas most respected scientists. This decision is bringing our internationally respected standards of animal husbandry into disrepute. I refer to Professor John Skinner, former head of Mammal Research Institute at Pretoria university for twenty six years, and incumbent president of the esteemed Royal Society of South Africa, who stated: There remains not a shred of evidence in the primary scientific literature demonstrating the elephants in the Kruger National Park or elsewhere adversely affect ecosystems. He said. Continued Anthony, Dr Ian Raper, President of the prestigious South African Association for the Advancement of Science, [S2A3] remains opposed to the cull and has stated that, This ill-advised cull is generating a great deal of international controversy, as it properly should’. If we find we cannot scientifically justify the decision, how then do we respond to international criticism, said Anthony.
Dr Raper then took the floor and explained the demands of the peer review process within the scientific community. Returning to the cull Raper quoted Prof Rudi Van Aarde, one of Africas foremost scientific experts in the field. We have collated information from over 200 studies published on the consequences of elephant presence for the environment (Guldemond & Van Aarde, in review).
Based on studies from across Africa we conclude that SCIENCE does NOT provide satisfactory evidence that elephants had a lasting negative effect on either animals or plants. It is not true that culling reduces numbers. (So: what purpose does it serve?)
Elephants and their management in the Kruger National Park, R J van Aarde, et al: Raper then quoted Prof Johan T. du Toit: from his study UNDERSTANDING ELEPHANTS AS AGENTS OF HETEROGENITY IN KRUGER:
Do we know the right density of elephants for any particular landscape?
The answer is a resounding no … if culling is applied as a management tool to serve the objectives of biodiversity conservation, then prior understanding is required of the relationship between elephant population density and biodiversity in each landscape. That understanding does NOT exist.
Furthermore, said Anthony, expert opinion and common knowledge dictate that the many thousand traumatized elephant that escape death are going to be dangerous to the millions of visitors to the Kruger Park. Yet quite unbelievably no recognized scientific studies exist to show the tourists will be safe. With the huge international media interest in this matter, If just one tourist is killed or harmed by a traumatized elephant during the cull, our priceless eco-tourism industry will pay a heavy price. This cull cannot be seen separately from our tourism industry; they go hand-in-hand. This is a decision which has significant implications for South Africa on many levels, and the poorly disguised, poorly researched, push for a slaughter is deeply troubling, said Anthony.
Dr Raper pointed out that the cull, according to the report on the Assessment of Elephant Management, would have to be applied indefinitely; otherwise elephant numbers would increase more rapidly than had the cull not been undertaken in the first place.
Instead, if the Parks Board were to close down the artificial waterholes in Kruger, populations would commence a process of natural regulation. Prof van Aarde’s corridor concept would be the next stage, although the basic fact remains that there is no elephant problem and no justification for us to decide as in a zoo how many members of any species there should be.