Source: The Mercury, 13 March, 2001, p.??
London AS many as 1000 elephants may be slaughtered in one of the largest wildlife reserves in Africa, despite an international outcry from conservationists. South Africa's Kruger National Park has drawn up a management plan to find ways of reducing elephant numbers from 9000 to 8000. It is looking for alternatives to culling but says a decision is urgent for the sake of other wildlife. Kruger spokesman William Mabasa said officials hoped to find homes for some of the animals in other African reserves or spread them into zones where there is sufficient vegetation for them. "At present they are uprooting trees, some of them rare species, and upsetting the balance of Kruger's ecosystem," he said. "The problem is elephants can live to 60 years or more and there is no way of preventing further breeding." The last cull in Kruger took place 10 years ago. It prompted a public outcry and the management brought in a no- culling policy. "We are having to review that," said Mabasa. "Culling is our last resort but it may be necessary in the end. "It would be very sad for us. However, we have to do something urgently to protect the other species here. Kruger cannot end up as an elephant reserve only." Officials have tried injecting elephants with a contraceptive drug but the park is the size of Wales, making it difficult to implement this strategy. Dr Willem Gertenbech, the park's general manager, said it would be difficult to relocate the animals because of the expense. There was no demand for them elsewhere. "Communities surrounding the park complain that the elephants stampede their crops," he said. If the cull went ahead, officials planned to store the tusks and sell the ivory as soon as international law allowed. The culling of elephants had been a vexed question for years. There was an outcry after the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species allowed a partial lifting of its ban on the ivory trade for a limited sale four years ago. This was the result of over- population of protected elephants and a desire to appease Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. where large scale poaching had been controlled. Numbers were drop- ping by 50 per cent each year at the height of poaching but since the ivory ban in 1989, populations had grown by an average of 6 per cent per year. At a conference last year, a two-year delay in the resumption of ivory sales was agreed while procedures were worked out to thwart a rise in poaching.
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