South Africa, Zimbabwe claim need to cull elephants

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2007:
ADDO NATIONAL PARK– South African environmental affairs and
tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk on February 28, 2007
announced that culling elephants may resume soon after a 12-year
suspension, under a draft policy open for public comment until May 4.
“If culling is allowed after the process of public comment,
and if it is included in the final draft,” van Schalkwyk said,
speaking cautiously to media at Addo National Park on the Eastern
Cape, “it would really depend on the management plans and
management objectives of each of the parks” where elephants might be
Addo and Kruger National Park, South Africa’s oldest and
largest, are most often mentioned as sites of alleged elephant
“We have about 20,000 elephants in South Africa,” van
Schalkwyk said, of whom “more or less 14,000 are in Kruger National
Park. In 1995, when we stopped culling we had around 8,000
elephants. The population growth of elephants is six to seven
percent [per year]. This is the hard reality,” Van Schalkwyk

“Culling or contraception, I would personally have preferred
not to consider,” van Schalkwyk added. “Culling may be used to
reduce the size of an elephant population subject to due
consideration of all other population management options.
“Contraception appears to be a promising measure to control
the rate of reproduction of elephants in certain limited
circumstances,” van Schalkwyk allowed, but asserted that “the
long-term social, physiological and emotional impacts on elephants
are not yet fully understood. Current contraception methods are
highly invasive,” van Schalkwyk said, “and should therefore be used
with caution.”
Summarized Lavinia Mahlangu of BuaNews in Tshwane, “In
addition to culling and contraception, the draft provides for
elephant population control using water supply management, enclosure
or exclusion, creating movement corridors between different areas,
and expanding elephant range by acquiring additional land.”
Concluded van Schalkwyk, “I want to emphasise that the draft
norms and standards merely represent a new chapter in the ongoing
debate about elephant management. Our department does not pretend
that this will be the final word. Their adoption will not be a
‘victory’ for any given position, nor will it immediately lead to
the wholesale slaughter of elephants anywhere.”
The final word, unlikely to be acknowledged as such, may be
the verdict on elephant trophy and ivory trade proposals before the
14th triennial meeting of nations which have endorsed the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species. The meeting will be
held June 3-5, 2007, in The Netherlands.
The South African draft policy announced by van Schalkwyk
closely followed recommendations outlined by World Wildlife
Fund/South Africa acting chief executive Rob Little to Stella
Mapenzauswa of Reuters on February 23, 2007.
“Friends of Animals has long argued that South Africa is
motivated to kill elephants to stockpile ivory, which South Africa
claims needs to be sold to benefit conservation,” responded Friends
of Animals president Priscilla Feral. FoA has been actively involved
in African elephant conservation for more than 20 years.
“Kruger National Park is secured with electrified fencing so
that elephants can’t escape to migrate to other neighboring states,”
Feral continued. “If South African officials wanted to relieve the
pressure of an increasing number of elephants, an area of fencing
could be taken down, but they refused to consider that option
because the struggle is over ivory, not elephants.”
Feral called on wildlife organizations to “withhold
significant grants to South Africa, and decline tourism, as long as
their policies threaten elephants and imprison them inside parks for
the purpose of shooting them. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia,
and Botswana routinely support initiatives to commercialize and
exploit wildlife,” Feral charged. “They treat their elephants like
hostages: ‘Give us money or we’ll have to shoot elephants inside
Kruger National Park.'”

Ivory politics

Affirmed International Union for the Conservation of Nature
elephant specialist Julian Blanc, to the Lesotho-based Afrol News
service, “Southern African countries have been doing heavy lobbying
for re-legalization of the ivory trade. Other African regions still
have not achieved sustainable elephant herds,” Blanc added, “and
fear that legalization of the ivory trade may cause increased illegal
In a recurring pattern preceding CITES triennial meetings at
which easing the 1989 international ivory trade ban is anticipated,
elephant poaching has escalated.
Nearly 23 tons of poached ivory were seized by various law
enforcement agencies in August 2006 alone, Samuel Wasser of the
Washington University Center for Conservation Biology told Afrol News.
“Customs agents typically detect only about 10% of
contraband,” Wasser said. “That means more than 23,000 elephants,
or about 5% of Africa’s total population, likely were killed for that
amount of ivory.”
Namiban minister of environment and tourism conservation
scientist Louisa Mupetami recently told Absalom Shigwedha of the
Windhoek Namibian that her agency is not yet ready to take a public
position on the proposals that will be before CITES in 2007. But
“Namibia and Botswana have jointly submitted a proposal to maintain
restricted ivory sales while easing conditions for future sales,”
Shigwedha wrote.
“Botswana is also independently seeking authorization” to
sell 40 metric tons of stockpiled ivory, Shigwedha added.
CITES Scientific Support Unit spokesperson David Morgan told
Associated Press in Geneva, Switzerland, that Kenya and Mali have
proposed that all trade in ivory tusks or finished products be banned
for 20 years.
Tanzania has requested that its elephants be downlisted from
CITES Appendix I to Appendix II, which would be a first step toward
allowing resumed elephant hunting. As Kenya has a long undefended
border with Tanzania, the downlisting could expand the opportunities
for transborder poachers to market elephant ivory, which now moves
mainly through Somalia.
Zambia and Zimbabwe are actively lobbying to expand elephant
trophy exports.
Zambian tourism and environment minister Kabinga Pande in
January 2007 led an official delegation to the Safari Club
International convention in Reno, Nevada, where they asked U.S Fish
& Wildlife Service assistant director for international affairs Ken
Stansell to increase the number of permits granted to U.S. hunters to
import elephant trophies. The U.S. annually issues 20 permits for
elephant trophies from Zambia, but 500 for elephant trophies from
Between 2001 and 2005, Pande claimed, Zambia lost $1.1
million because it was not able to sell permits to U.S. hunters to
kill 115 elephants who were shot for various management reasons.
Zimbabwe is meanwhile arguing that it should be allowed to
export more elephant trophies, and ivory too.
“We have a hunting quota of 500 every hunting season, but
this is not meaningfully reducing the population,” Zimbabwean
environment minister Francis Nhema told the government-controlled
Harare Herald.
“Over 110,000 elephants now inhabit Zimbabwe, and the
number is growing at 5% annually, although there is space and food
for only 47,000,” the Harare Herald asserted. The Harare Herald
did not explain how so many elephants could survive and reproduce if
they had already exceeded the carrying capacity of the habitat by
more than 100%. However, van Schalkwyk of South Africa mentioned in
passing, while introducing the draft South African elephant culling
policy, that “We don’t work with the outdated concept of carrying
capacity any longer.”
What might make the concept of carrying capacity “outdated,”
van Schalkwyk did not explain, but the concept may be inconvenient
for nations and organizations seeking to expand “sustainable use” of
wildlife products.
As regards elephants, this means trophy hunting and selling ivory.
The Zimbabwean elephant population data, the Harare Herald
said, was from a survey financed by the World Wildlife Fund,
founded by trophy hunters in 1961 to promote “sustainable use” and
oppose hunting bans.
“Elephant and lion trophies were the most expensive,” at a
mid-March 2007 auction of hunting permits, the Herald noted. The
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Manage-ment Authority “raised close to $1
million U.S. and over $1.5 billion [in Zimbabwe dollars] in the
Zambezi Valley hunts auction held in the capital last week,” the
Herald trumpeted. “This was a significant increase from last year’s
auction, which raised only $150 million,” the Herald said–but with
runaway inflation taken into account, the returns appeared to be
about the same as in 2006.
Despite the purported value of elephant trophies, however,
Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force chair Johnny Rodrigues alleged to
Eleanor Momberg of the Cape Times that some alleged “guardians of
Zimbabwe’s national parks have entered the lucrative crocodile
breeding business, and have allocated 50 to 100 elephants a year to
feed the crocodiles.
“They have shot three already,” Rodrigues told Momberg. “We
are looking into allegations that other crocodile farms in the
country are being supplied with elephant meat from culls in
conservation areas.”
Rodrigues’ case was supported by an e-mail from Kariba
resident Geoff Blyth, who asserted that the elephants of the Lake
Kariba region were jeopardized by the construction of a crocodile
farm in the Kaburi wilderness area, “on the shore opposite two
popular tourist attractions,” Momberg noted.
“Blyth said an elephant caught in a snare had recently been
shot so that officials could determine how many elephants a year
would be required to keep their crocodiles fed,” Momberg recounted.
Said Blyth, “They are destroying everything. We believe
there is a silent cull going on. More and more tourists are
complaining they are not seeing any game.”
Working in partnership with the Friends of Hwange
Conservation Society of Britain and the SAVE Conservancy of Australia
and South Africa, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force has raised
more than $1 million to help maintain 5,400-square-mile Hwange
National Park.
At the same time, as London Sunday Telegraph correspondent
Peta Thorneycroft summarized from Harare, Rodrigues “has accused
hunters, mainly from South Africa and the U.S., of drastically
reducing the lion population in southern Zimbabwe where they are in
theory a protected species. He has also regularly criticized both
the government and some private sector safari operators for wayward
conservation practices.
“When Hwange National Park was critically short of funds,
Rodrigues exposed the authority’s purchase of a fleet of
top-of-the-range 4x4s for use by officials in Harare. His last alert
reported that Zimbabwe’s largest safari company, Shearwater
Adventures, which operates out of the Victoria Falls World Heritage
site, had taken 10 young elephants from their mothers in the Hwange
National Park. It is believed that the young elephants could be
trained to provide rides for tourists,” Thorneycroft recounted.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director
general Morris Mtsambiwa responded by writing to Rodrigues in January
2007 that, “Due to continuous negative and false reports emanating
from your organisation about conservation in Zimbabwe, the authority
can no longer afford to associate with you. With immediate effect,
the authority will no longer accept any donations that will come
through your organization.”

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