Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Elephant Cull Considered

28 February 2007

Categories: Homepage News, Elephants Campaign News

LONDON—The Born Free Foundation expressed utter disappointment today after Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South African Minister of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, announced that government-sanctioned elephant killing would be an option for inclusion in the country’s national wildlife management strategy. “The bold, forward-looking decision would have been to declare that cruel culling would be taken off the table,” said Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation. “Instead, decision-makers seem to embrace the most controversial option—slaughtering elephants.”

Between 1966 and 1994 more than 16,000 elephants were slaughtered in the Kruger National Park, as a method of 'population control'. Orphans from these culls were displaced in many cases, and today remain languishing in foreign lands—even in captivity in American zoos.  Born Free maintains that culling is not only controversial, but completely objectionable.

Numerous research studies show that elephant culling causes deep distress to these highly intelligent animals.  “We have a sincere ethical responsibility to protect elephants from this cruelty,” Travers noted. “The Minister has declared that management of natural resources ‘should be conducted ethically, humanely and rationally.’  If this is the case, he should hear loudly and clearly: elephant culling is not ethical, humane, or rational.”

Born Free’s extensive research on elephant conservation and African elephant management strategies finds that culling is a short-term fix, as elephants may increase breeding to compensate for unnatural population losses through culling.

Additionally, there is a considerable continental impact to elephant killing in South Africa. While elephants across Africa continue to suffer from habitat destruction, the bushmeat trade, and poaching for their tusks, culling will lead to increased national ivory stockpiles and considerable pressure to commercialize this ivory on the international market. 

“Further,” Travers continued, “the Minister asserts that ‘within the African context, sustainable use of natural resources is necessary and appropriate.’  Born Free supports real conservation, and contends that non-consumptive wildlife utilization can indeed be good and profitable for wildlife management and African communities.  Culling cannot.”

Born Free supports a series of alternatives to culling including range expansion, translocation, and contraception, and urges the Minister to reconsider including elephant culling as a national management option.  Travers concluded: “Clearly, the international community will take a close look at South Africa’s decision on culling.  Many tourists to South Africa may well reconsider their plans when faced with the reality of traveling to a country that condones the killing of its elephants. National parks should be safe havens for elephants—not killing fields.”

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