A cull can be defined as a means to: “reduce the population of (a wild animal) by selective slaughter”. Born Free strongly feels that elephant culling is not only objectionable, but completely unnecessary and illogical given the number of alternatives available.
The culling of elephants used to be common practice in parts of Africa, but culling is widely recognised by many scientists to be an inappropriate method of elephant population control, and at present, only relatively low level killing under the guise of licenced hunts* is thought to be taking place. However, a number of southern African countries have reopened the debate on the use of elephant culling in recent years.
Case Study - South Africa:
Since 2008 culling has been legal in South Africa. Despite the government claiming that this is a last resort, this reversal of the 1995 ban elicited strong negative reactions from the conservation community.
Between 1966 and 1994 more than16,000 elephants were culled in Kruger National Park, South Africa, as a method of population control. Traumatised orphans from these culls were often displaced, and today many continue to languish in foreign zoos.
“Culling is a short-term fix, not a long-term solution”, explains Will Travers, President of the Born Free Foundation. “Scientific research has shown that culling, far from reducing numbers of elephants, may have actually increased them by accelerating breeding rates. We should have learned from the 27 years of systematic lethal elephant management in Kruger that culling simply doesn’t work.”
Contraception of female elephants is one method that has been developed to keep elephant numbers under control, without the controversy, suffering and trauma associated with culling. Contraception programmes have been shown it to be safe, effective and reversible. However, the South African government states that it is too difficult to properly implement a contraception programme in larger elephant populations such as that found in Kruger.
Scientists involved in developing the contraceptive methods, contend that the only constraints to implementing contraception in larger populations are economic.
Will Travers continues, “Leading scientists have reported that it costs around £50 to contracept each female elephant. If you look at the number of reproductively viable female elephants in Kruger (roughly 3,700-4,500) that means that for between £180,000 and £225,000, a contraception programme could be implemented throughout Kruger National Park. For a country with a GDP that outstrips most other African economies more than ten-fold, (SA GDP, as of November 2014, US$350.63 billion) this is peanuts. I have no doubt the authorities could afford it if they really wanted to.”
Sadly, it appears that elephant culling may be more of an economic than an environmental decision. The draw of the dollar may be simply too strong. Ivory is regarded as a valuable by-product of culling – valuable enough to make culling economically viable. Although a widespread international ban on trade in ivory is currently in place, there is no doubt that the expansion of national ivory stockpiles that would result from elephant culling will lead to considerable pressure to further exploit the value of ivory on the international market in the future.
“Born Free supports real conservation, and contends that non-consumptive wildlife utilisation can indeed be beneficial and profitable for wildlife management and African communities.” concludes Will Travers. “National parks should be safe havens for elephants—not killing fields.”
In 2006 scientists published a report, providing a revealing summary of issues relating to culling. Download this article (pdf - 198KB)
Born Free has some video footage of a cull. We must stress that this very disturbing footage. Do not follow this link if you are easily upset. Link to cull footage >