The majestic elephants of southern Africa face mass culling

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Zimbabwe plans to kill thousands of elephants in its forests to control the growing population of these majestic animals.

Parks and Wildlife Authority of Zimbabwe has said that the number of elephants in the country has crossed 100,000, way above the 45,000 limit the country can sustain.

The animals have often sauntered through villages, trampling crops and destroying property.

The wildlife authority spokesperson Edward Mbewe says ‘We are having an explosion of the elephant population.This has proved to be destructive to the environment and there are more cases of humans encountering elephant invasions and attacks.

A British woman and her ten year old daughter were trampled to death last Saturday by a rampaging wild elephant in the Hwange national park in northwest Zimbabwe.

Mbewe also said the killing would be within the annual hunting quota of 500, permitted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). No immediate figures are available, however, on how many elephants Zimbabwe has allowed to be hunted in recent years. Elephant hunting brings about US $15 million every year to Zimbabwe’s coffers.

Elephant culling is not new in southern Africa. South Africa says the famous Kruger National Park and the other parks adjacent to it are overpopulated with elephants. South African National Parks (SANParks), the custodians of the Kruger National Park, has told the South African Government that the elephant population is too big and its size is affecting biodiversity in the park. The park has a capacity to accommodate 7,500 elephants, while their numbers now stand at around 12,500. SANParks proposes killing several thousand elephants. South Africa says the present population, if left uncontrolled, could double by 2020.

But, South Africa fears sending a wrong signal to the world by killing several thousand elephants. The KNP is visited by 1.3 million tourists every year, many of whom are attracted by the herds of elephants that could be seen from close quarters in their natural habitat.

Animal welfare and environmental groups are strongly opposed to the mass killing of these large mammals. Jason Bell-Leask, International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Southern Africa Director, says ‘A decision by South Africa to allow a cull will send a disturbing message to the world about South Africa’s attitude towards wildlife management.’

Actually South Africa planned culling elephants two years back in 2005.

As an alternative to killing, contraception is proposed to reduce the increase in population though this is not welcome among many here, as it will work rather slowly.

Elephants are considered to be wise and they are affectionate and loyal to humans when tamed.

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