Elephants Unwelcome In South Africa And Are Marked For Death

elephant surge 01 Elephants Unwelcome In South Africa And Are Marked For Death

South Africa looks at their growing population of Elephants as giant rats who need to be controlled. This giant rat population has now been official marked for death and the shooting season is open for all the big game hunters out there. The good old times are back, right? How crazy is this? Can South Africa really be sliding back down the wrong side of history? They seem to be very short sighted when it comes to cleaning up their country and improving the lives of their human and animal populations.

Elephants live in very complex family groups. Killing family members at random is not only cruel, but destroys the natural learning and maturing process for the surviving members. When the oldest largest members are killed, they die with vast amount of knowledge, the younger generation needs, to survive. It’s even been shown in studies, younger elephants seem to go a little crazy from the anxiety of not being guided by senior members of the family.

elephant surge 02 Elephants Unwelcome In South Africa And Are Marked For Death

elephant surge 03 Elephants Unwelcome In South Africa And Are Marked For Death

One of the risks over over-conservation is the potential for over-population. And the decisions that have to be made once the “damage” is done. Of course, that all depends on your definition of “damage”. While an abundance of an animal species in the wild certainly poses a threat to other species, if you believe in the natural order of things and the fact that nature has survived for millions of years without human interference, it makes South Africa’s controversial decision to kill excess elephants seemvery ill advised.

The country banned elephant culling back in 1994 over extinction concerns. But now that the animal’s population has surged to 18,000 in the country (totaling 600,000 throughout the continent), the environmental ministry says the area’s biodiversity and ecosystem are at risk and that an as-of-yet undecided amount of elephants will have to be killed, a plan that Bob Scholes of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research called reasonable and “inescapable”.

elephant surge 04 Elephants Unwelcome In South Africa And Are Marked For Death

One of the arguments tossed into this debate is that the elephant has no natural predators to help balance the population. But does that warrant an unnatural predator? Studies have shown that elephants experience pain and the trauma of separation from family.

“They may be conscious of suffering in other elephants, they may have a knowledge of the ‘other’ that puts them low down but on the path to some kind of self-consciousness,” Mr. Scholes was quoted as saying by the UK’s Telegraph. “They are higher than most animals but lower than humans.”

Animal rights activists have threatened to call for a tourist boycott of South Africa, but that seems hardly comforting for the elephant. Call it the unnatural order of things, call it man playing God however you slice it, there has got to be a better way.

  • John Mars

    I would like to point out that the writer of this article does not have any idea of what he/she is talking about.

    I live on the border of the Kruger Park and witness the damage the elephants does on a daily basis. They ringbark trees and push them over which kills them. Whole forests have been wiped out by these "giant rats". So, according to the writer it is ok for all the animals that depend on the forest to loose their habitat and most likely die, but it is not acceptable to reduce the population back to the area's carrying capacity?

    And it is not that other options have not been explored, putting them on the pill, translocation and even enlarging the park into Mozambique.

    At the end of the day due to their prolific breeding and no enemies

    the parks board had to take a decision, do they want a nature reserve or an elephant park.

    p.s They are well aware of the social structure of the animals and for that reason whole family units gets culled together.

  • Monty

    Probably one of the more biased articles I have ever read. You admit that there is a problem yet give no suggestions and revert to critisizing efforts to curb this problem.

    Elephants are magnificent animals to say the very least and this was not a hasty decision.

    "…if you believe in the natural order of things and the fact that nature has survived for millions of years without human interference, …" Humans are part of nature too, believe it or not. So according to your natural order of things is it really that wrong for humans to hunt them or to try to protect your own human population and the rest of their animal population with this move? Notwithstanding the benefits there are many disadvantages of an overpopulation of elephants such as their large diets(Need about 140-270KG of forage every day – Could feed probably more than one hundred springboks every day) or the fact that they have been known to attack humans more often when overpopulated, the list goes on.

    Next time do some research on a subject before you blatantly attack a solution to a rising problem.

  • http://gliving.com G Monkie

    There is a report in the Uk Independent, which talks about big sales in Elephant Ivory again. The decision to allow a sale of ivory to China and Japan could be fuelling a rise in smuggling. Is there a financial side to allowing the killings? What happens to all the ivory?


  • paul

    I have to agree with the writer. Where there's will there's away. I've been in the RSA for 17 years now and I don't see much genuine compassion and respect. I'll never forget when the powers that be decided to cull the Dassies (a beautiful deer) on Table Mountain. Why, because they weren't indiginous to the area. They were shot dead and the meat was distributed to the poor in shantytowns. What genius came up with that plan.

  • George S


    That's what this is about.

  • http://www.jmpelley.org John Pelley

    What are they thinking with? They should learn to live with the elephant and not destroy them.

  • Mattera

    The argument most commonly used to justify the large-scale killing of elephant herds is that they destroy the habitat, threatening the survival of other life forms. But, where is the evidence to support this premise? In Tsavo, what at one point in time appeared to be wholesale "destruction" of the woody plant community, turned out to be something quite different. Nor did the predicted demise of many species due to the activity of elephants occur – rather the reverse; the habitat was improved and became more productive benefiting biodiversity. There the ability of Nature to adjust elephant numbers was illustrated and the reason for the female bonding within elephant society also became clear. Added to this, human failings such as corruption and greed illustrated the pitfalls of "commercial utilization" of wild free ranging populations, where Nature imposes its own controls through predation, disease, and food and water availability, no provision allowed in the system for human predation on a commercial scale.

    The role of Elephants is a very crucial one, crucial to the survival of many other species both large and small. They are Nature's Bulldozers, their most important function that of recycling the nutrients and trace elements locked in wood, drawn up out of soil by tree roots over decades. Only when the trees themselves are felled are these rare earths released back into the environment to become available to other plant and animal life less well equipped. No other animal can, for instance, recycle the precious minerals of the giant Baobab, a long lived colossus extremely rich in calcium and trace elements. The debris of trees felled by elephants shield pioneer grasses and shrubs from trampling; deep rooted perennial grasses follow, the grazers proliferate and browsers decline. Natural selection ensures that the gene pool is honed and that the strongest survive in readiness for another thicket phase as elephant numbers fall. Then, if the elephants can be adequately protected, their numbers will rise again in tandem with the regeneration of the woodlands, and this then is the natural order of events – a cyclical vegetational seesaw of woodland to grassland and back to woodland inextricably intertwined with elephant numbers.

    It is the elephants who create the trails that benefit all others, roads that not only select the best alignment over difficult terrain, but also unerringly point the way to water, acting as conduits for run-off rainwater directing it to the waterholes and ensuring that they fill more surely and rapidly. Elephants create the waterholes in the first place and enlarge them every time they bathe, carrying away copious quantities of mud plastered on their huge bodies. The puddling action of their giant feet seals the bottom against seepage, so that water lasts longer in the dry seasons benefiting all life and relieving feeding pressures near permanent sources. Elephants also have the ability to expose hidden subsurface supplies buried deep beneath the sands of the dry riverbeds, making it accessible to others by tunnelling at an angle with their trunks. Their sheer weight compresses the sand bringing water closer to the surface as dozens of elephants patiently await their turn to drink from these holes. Were the elephants not there to fulfil this function, all water dependent species would not be able to exist in such places – a case in point being the Tiva river in Tsavo, which literally died faunally when the elephants left.

    Elephants provide in other ways too, breaking down branches to bring browse to a lower level, thereby making it accessible to the many smaller creatures that share their world. By felling trees they create the space that allows seedlings to take root and grow uninhibited by their parents' shadow. The very rapid metabolism of an elephant ensures copious quantities of dung, the very life support for the largest scarabs, who roll it into balls and bury it deep below the ground, thereby enriching the soil. The dung also attracts the insects that nourish a host of insectivorous birds, mammals and reptiles and because elephants have such an inefficient digestive system, it is particularly rich.

  • Richard S


    Now THAT'S someone who KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. Thank you for the invaluable information, Mattera.


    Thanks for a great article.

  • Richard Chandler

    I have a home for 3 elephants, my friend has a large undeveloped farm with plenty of trees and water, other game will be introduced.

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