Friday, April 29, 2005
African elephant populations are booming in southern Africa, largely due to the restrictions placed on elephant hunting in the 1990s. As a result, some park managers have been forced to begin culling Loxodonta africana. Apparently, their take is not enough. As a recent article in South Africa’s Sunday Independent makes clear, the elephants are placing undue pressure on the parks they inhabit. In Kruger National Park (South Africa) the ideal population is 7,000 animals; presently 13,000 elephants reside within park borders.
Culling is not popular with animal rights groups; these groups promote other options such as relocation or sterilization. These expensive and challenging alternatives are familiar to those of us who follow the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population debate here in the United States.
The best option, as I see it, is the creation of wildlife corridors that will allow the animals to move freely from park to park without coming into contact with extensive human settlement. Barring the necessary legislation and land acquisition, however, culling will remain an unfortunate reality, animal rights be damned. It is also important to note that humans are one of the only natural predators for African elephants and, even with successful wildlife corridors and improved migration, a flourishing elephant population will probably demand some attrition via bullet.
Photo credit: George Reiger, Botswana, Africa, 1997 (image of Seba, a yearling African elephant, inspecting my camera bag in the Okavango Delta)