The killing fields of the Kruger National Park came under extreme fire from public outrage some ten years ago for its cruel and brutal methods of culling elephants and now, as history threatens to repeat itself, elephants once again find themselves staring down the barrel of a gun.
In 1995, a temporary ban was placed against the culling of elephants and a program was launched to innoculate female elephants in order to control the amount of elephants within the KNP. Although animals were darted by marksmen from airborne helicopters on a regular basis, the population of the African elephant rapidly increased to the point were now, the population has far exceeded the capacity of the KNP and the number of elephants present are destroying their habitat.
It has been suggested that the KNP expand into surrounding pockets of land, but this would also cause more problems as the people living in the villages that border the KNP would become displaced. Too many of Africa’s population are already displaced by poverty and disease.
As an easy way out, South African National Parks (SANParks) are now proposing to take up arms once more and cull 40% of the elephant population (around 5,000 animals) in a bid to make their numbers more manageable. Yet it is believed that more research is necessary before an informed decision can be made. Mega-parks would surely be a viable answer to this problem, allowing elephants to roam free as nature intended instead of being limited to the confines of the KNP.
To allow the cull to go ahead would be to send the wrong message to the rest of the world about South Africa’s attitude towards the management of its wildlife.
Many of the 1.3 million tourists who visit the KNP each year are attracted by the chance to see large numbers of elephants in their natural habitat and South Africa’s reputation as a custodian of wildlife will surely stand to suffer if the cull is allowed to go ahead. The KNP custodians are supposed to be a sound sanctuary for its wildlife, not the mass murderers they are proposing to be.
So the question that stands is not whether there are too many elephants, but is it right to kill them in such an inhumane way without first exploring other avenues. It seems to many, that this decision is one made with little thought as to the effects on the elephant population as a whole and also that this is an economic decision rather than an environmental one.
Those voices which were raised so loudly a decade ago will be heard louder than ever before as global protests to stop the cull gain momentum.