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 user 2008-02-26 at 11:53:00 am Views: 30
  • #21257

    South Africa Lifts Ban on Elephant Killing
    South Africa (Feb.08) – South Africa announced Monday that it was
    reversing a 1995 ban on killing elephants to help control their booming
    population, drawing instant outrage from animal-rights
    activists.Elephants walk along trail June 1, 2007, in South Africa’s
    Kruger National Park. The country’s elephant population has more than
    doubled since culling was banned in 1995.Environment Minister Marthinus
    van Schalkwyk did not say how many elephants could be killed, saying
    only that some animal-rights groups’ estimates of 2,000 to 10,000 were
    “hugely inflated.”"Culling will only be allowed as a last option and
    under very strict conditions,” van Schalkwyk told reporters. “Our
    simple reality is that elephant population density has risen so much in
    some southern African countries that there is concern about impacts on
    the landscape, the viability of other species and the livelihoods and
    safety of people living within elephant ranges.”

    Johannesburg-based group Animal Rights Africa threatened to call for
    international tourist boycotts and protests and to take legal
    action.South Africa’s elephant population has ballooned to more than
    20,000 from 8,000 in 1995, when international pressure led to a ban on
    killing them.Elephants require great tracts of land to roam in order to
    get their daily diet of about 660 pounds of grass, leaves and twigs,
    and they are increasingly coming into conflict with people in the
    competition for land.Van Schalkwyk also announced that the government
    is prohibiting the capture of wild elephants for commercial purposes —
    a move likely to draw fire from a fast-growing industry in
    elephant-back safaris.In addition, he said, the government is drawing
    up regulations to govern treatment of the country’s 120 captive
    elephants. Van Schalkwyk said his department had received “numerous
    complaints” about cruel training practices including the use of
    electric prodders.All three measures are part of a comprehensive update
    to South Africa’s elephant policy that the government calls an attempt
    to manage the needs of elephants with those people, killing some of the
    animals humanely while eliminating the unnecessary and sometimes
    treatment of tamed elephants.The new regulations on managing elephants,
    effective May 1, say killing must be through “quick and humane methods
    and a rifle with minimum caliber of .375,” and used along with other
    measures such as contraception by injection and moving elephants to new

    Van Schalkwyk said the debate over killing elephants was marked by “strong emotions.”
    are few other creatures on earth that have the ability of elephants to
    ‘connect’ with humans in a very special way,” he said.In addition,
    elephant populations in other countries are low, elephants are classed
    as “vulnerable” worldwide, and trade in ivory has been banned since
    1989 to try to combat poaching.The new regulation said that elephants’
    survival often depends on their operation as a family unit, and “an
    elephant may not be culled if it is part of a family unless the
    matriarch and juvenile bulls are culled as well.”It said killing may be
    carried out only under a plan prepared with a recognized
    elephant-management ecologist and approved by relevant
    authorities.Animal Rights Africa said killing elephants was “undeniably
    cruel and morally reprehensible” as well as counterproductive.”It’s
    hugely problematic and it does the opposite of what they want it to
    do,” spokeswoman Michele Pickover said.

    She argued that when
    elephants are killed, the herd automatically breeds more, and other
    elephants move into the space of the slain elephants, resulting in a
    larger population than before the killing.Her organization also argues
    that there are not too many elephants in South Africa.She also said the
    latest research has proved that elephants have a sense of
    self-awareness and cognitive powers that place them in a special
    category together with great apes, dolphins and humans.”How much like
    us do elephants have to be before killing them becomes murder?”
    Pickover asked.A total of 14,562 elephants were killed in South Africa
    between 1967 and 1994. Without that campaign, their numbers would have
    rocketed by now to 80,000, according to the national parks service.

    Many elephants were traumatized by the killings and some became aggressive as a result.
    Scholes, lead author of the elephant management regulations,
    acknowledged to reporters that there is a “down side” to killing.”It
    changes the way they behave, there is a lot of evidence for social
    behavioral consequences as a result of culling” he said. The new
    regulations say that killing should not be carried out near other
    elephants.Contraception also is fraught with problems. A female
    normally breeds every four years and does not mate while nursing. With
    contraception, a female comes on heat every four months — but does not
    fall pregnant — and so suffers the physical stress of frequent
    copulation with bulls four times her weight.

    And moving
    elephants, another alternative, can be prohibitively expensive.The era
    of the big white hunter in the 1900s brought Africa’s elephants near to
    extinction. South Africa had just 200 elephants at the turn of the
    century.Now South Africa, Namibia and Botswana all have booming
    elephant populations — a result of their conservation efforts — while
    those of east and west African nations are struggling because of
    large-scale poaching.Van Schalkwyk said he had discussed the new
    regulations with other southern African countries facing the same
    dilemma.Botswana has by far the largest population, with an estimated
    165,000 elephants. Zimbabwe has an estimated 80,000 and Mozambique some