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African Elephants: How to Die?

This is a discussion on African Elephants: How to Die? within the Hunting Africa forums, part of the HUNT AFRICA category; African Elephants: How to Die? by Jacques Berney For some months, and actually perhaps for years, South Africa has been ...

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    African Elephants: How to Die?
    by Jacques Berney

    For some months, and actually perhaps for years, South Africa has been confronting what appears, (although it should not) to be a serious dilemma: should culling of elephants be resumed in the Kruger National Park? It was stopped there in 1995 after long debates with animal rights groups such as IFAW and HSUS, which offered so-called compensations in the form of grants to buy land to translocate some animals, or to experiment with methods of contraception for them. Although the Minister of the Environment has not given formal approval, it appears that the decision to resume culling has now been made. Through African Hunting Info, we have learned that the Minister and officials of the South African National Parks have recently visited some key countries in Europe, to explain to representatives of governments and NGOs why elephant numbers need to be reduced and, we presume, to get some assurance that South Africa shall not be criticized too strongly, when culling starts again.

    At the same time, dramatic reports are coming from the also famous Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, where at least 50 elephants have died and many more are expected to die due to serious lack of food and water. This region, like others in southern Africa, is once more suffering a serious drought. Although officials of Zimbabwe have suggested the translocation of elephants from Hwange to Namibia, African Hunting Info has reported that the Namibian director of parks and wildlife management refuses; there is no way for Namibia to accommodate more jumbos; they have enough elephants of their own.

    These two situations have to be considered at the same time, as they are parts of the same problem. How can elephant populations be managed, when it is evident that their numbers are becoming excessive in view of the habitat available? While the population of the Kruger NP was for years maintained around 7000 elephants, it has steadily grown after the ban on culling. In spite of actual translocations and the opening to new grounds, including through the elimination of fences at the border with Mozambique, it has probably doubled by now. In Hwange NP, where the capacity is estimated at around 45,000 elephants, the population has soared to more than 75,000. Such densities are not without serious consequences on the habitat, especially in the case of negative climatic events, drought in particular. This has detrimental impacts on other species and on the elephant itself, as now evidenced in Zimbabwe. A solution should be found before very serious disasters occur there and elsewhere in similar circumstances.

    This kind of problem is indeed not specific to either the African elephant or to southern Africa. Many countries throughout the world are confronted with similar problems, e.g. in Europe with wild boars, foxes and deer, in North America with deer, beaver and seals, in Australia with kangaroos and some parrots. In all these countries, the problem has not turned to a dilemma. It is simply and logically understood, in particular by governments, that these species have to be managed and, to prevent their demographic explosion, that they must be hunted or culled. Except for seals, this does not raise large campaigns of protest, if any. Regarding foxes, as an example, animal-right groups may be using them to produce posters and pamphlets but this is not to campaign against their hunt but against the use of their pelts because these groups are opposed to the fur industry in general. The United Kingdom is or was an exception, due to the traditional dog hunting. Few of these groups propose contraception for wild boar or deer, nor do they consider those species as endangered contrary to what they claim for the African elephant. Why this difference in attitude? Because they know well that their protests would remain without any effect on the authorities and, above all, would result in a complete failure in terms of fund raising. The elephant, on the other side, what a godsend! Millions of dollars have been collected to ‘save’ elephants, although not much has reached the range countries to assist them to conserve the species.

    Therefore, we shall strongly support South Africa, as well as other countries such as Zimbabwe, when they resume culling where necessary to prevent African elephant overcrowding and the destruction of its habitat. There is no need to ask for permission from other governments or especially, from NGOs, to manage their own game. The former are not telling them whether hunting should be allowed or not on their territories and while the views of NGOs might be taken into consideration, they should not dictate the final decision. Similarly, the governments of these African countries should not listen to NGOs that are blackmailing them by claiming that it would be against tourism interests to cull elephants because international tourists would boycott them. Hunting and culling may perfectly coexist with tourism when properly conducted, as demonstrated in many places, including in Kruger NP before 1995. Concerning contraception, which is still considered by some NGOs as a potential solution, to suggest that a species should be prevented to breed is blatantly indecent from people who describe it as in danger of extinction. To close waterholes, as also proposed, does not inspire better feelings.

    In addition, it should not be forgotten that before the culling ban in Kruger NP, elephants were providing considerable quantities of meat for the local human population, and other products of high value on the international markets. The economic return from culling, although it is not without costs, is far from negligible and is a benefit to the conservation of the elephant, of other species, and to local communities sharing the same habitats. This supposes however that it is possible to trade internationally in these products. For that reason CITES should finally agree that countries which have been the best protectors of their populations of elephants have to be allowed to manage them in their (the countries’ and the elephants’) best interests.

    If these countries still have doubts on their rights in this matter, they should ask the relevant governments how they would react if they were pushed to ban any use of wild boar, deer or kangaroos.

    Source: iwmc.org
    This article first appeared in the e-newsletter of African Indaba. Get a free subscription.

    Gerhard R Damm
    AFRICAN INDABA
    Dedicated to the People & Wildlife of Africa
    www. africaindaba.com

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    DLS
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    Excellent essay. This is a problem that needs attention very soon. The animal rights groups, or NGOs, that use the tourism argument seem to get away with their audiences not considering the effects on tourism of hundreds, or thousands, of dead elephants on the visitors. I can't imagine there will be many photo safaris to places where lots of dead elepants exist, having succumbed to starvation. Also, habitat that elephants have over-used doesn't look as scenic as habitat where they've had less of an impact, and the less used is more scenic, again drawing more tourism.

    The fact is, elephants need to be managed by carefully regulated sport hunting, as well as culling. Thousands of people can be fed in this manner, and millions of dollars raised in the home range countries for the conservation of wildlife.

    It is time for more and more african countries to tactfully tell the NGOs to piss off.

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    DLS,

    You speak so true...It worked in the passed, why not now?
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    Culling of wildlife, is called "Hunting". And hunting to keep animal populations in check with the habitat and other animal species is called wildlife mangement. Negotiating with people that don't get managing wildlife for a healthy population becomes a arguement of wasted time and money.

    Whatever happen to hunter/gather trait in people???

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    Enysse, as you know, the problem we have now is that a number of countries and groups are dictating how everyone else should do things. The EU seems to have no problem in telling other countries on other continents how to do things and what is or is not acceptable. CITES does it of course, based on the decisions made at their meetings, some of which almost fall into the blackmail category. And of course the all too powerful USFWS does it indirectly knowing that their decisions on what is or is not allowed in as sport trophies has a significant impact globally because American hunters make up such a huge percentage of the global client base.

    Unfortunately these groups do not seem to care about the collateral damage their decisions cause to the wildlife they claim to be trying to protect, the land base these animals inhabit and the people who live there and have to suffer the consequences of the decisions being made.

    Elephants were never endangered. Polar bears are not endangered. Seals are certainly not endangered, although you can't say that for the cod stocks. The use of the term 'endangered' should be site specific, but it is used with sweeping, broad strokes. A species can of course be endangered in one location, while being dangerously overpopulated in another.

    It has been clearly demonstrated numerous times that hunting is not just a management tool, it is a vital and necessary component of any sound management plan and when you remove it from the equation there are always negative consequences. Where you have a sound management plan that includes hunting you have healthy and sustainable game populations. When you remove hunting completely from the picture, the animals and habitat suffer in the long run.

    Non-consumptive conservation programs never work. You need look no further than the Bengal tiger for proof.

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    Just like here in the US, the common denominator to the anti-hunting (or anti-management) camp is ignorance of sound wildlife management principles. The key component to the equation isn't the average carrying capacity of the land, it's the carrying capacity during lean times, like a drought. During those times the stressed critters eat everything down to to the ground, destroying habitat that would have harbored countless other creatures in the ecosystem in addition to the one in question. Recovery of that habitat requires decades.

    In 1930 there were about 300,000 whitetail deer in the U.S. Today, there are around 300 million - probably more than at any other time in the earth's history. Why? Because they are MANAGED!!!!! What species is more heavily hunted?

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    Sport hunting is the best method of culling and the most effective means of controlling the numbers of elephant to the amount of food available, furthermore it fills the coffers with funds to further manage the situation....

    Without it they all perish from starvation first, desease follows then epidemic..This is a proven fact..The rest is politics, money and greed.

    Culling by a cull force costs excessive amounts of money, is no more effective than sport hunting, stresses elephants terribly, and makes them agressive..and it creates no revenue..

    It is so obvious, that one wonders where these inbred individuals that want to ban hunting come from, surely another planet..The do more harm to wildlife than all the preditors and hunters combined. Natures rath is no comparison to them.
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    Gerhard,

    Informative discription , relates the practicality of the yester years and the present.

    Monish
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