Wildlife Direct leaders express conflicting views of South African elephant policy

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2008:


NAIROBI, JOHANNESBURG–Wildlife Direct chief executive
Emmanuel de Merode on May 1, 2008 partially blamed a new South
African elephant management policy for the poaching massacre of 14
elephants in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, just six
weeks after Wildlife Direct founding chair Richard Leakey endorsed
the policy.
“The upsurge in elephant killings in Virunga is part of a
widespread slaughter across the Congo Basin,” de Merode told Agence
France-Presse, “and is driven by developments on the international
scene: the liberalisation of the ivory trade, pushed by South
Africa, and the increased presence of Chinese operators who feed a
massive domestic demand for ivory in their home country.”
Reported Agence France-Presse, “The killings were announced
as South Africa lifted a 13-year moratorium on elephant culling,
raising concern about a return to the international trade in ivory
seen in the 1970s and 1980s, Wildlife Direct said.”‘

Leakey explained his perspective in a March 21, 2008 “Green
Room” column for the BBC News web site. “I was part of the community
of concerned professionals who objected to the culling of elephants
in southern Africa during the 1990s and before,” Leakey reminded in
opening. “By 1990, long-term research in Kenya and elsewhere had
revealed that elephants have highly organised societies and a
surprisingly well developed ability to communicate. We consider them
sentient creatures like whales and apes who deserve special
consideration when it comes to their management.
“While I will never like the idea of elephant culling,”
Leakey said, “I do accept that given the impacts of human-induced
climate change and habitat destruction, elephants in and outside of
protected areas will become an increasingly serious problem unless
some key populations are reduced and maintained at appropriate
The South African National Park Service, which lobbied
against the moratorium almost from the day it was imposed, claimed
to have no immediate plans to kill elephants.
“According to the new norms and standards,” explained Fran
Blandy of Agence France-Presse, “contraception and translocation
would continue to be the preferred population control measures.”

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