Kruger elephants manageable - SANParks

2013-05-05 21:05

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Johannesburg - The Kruger National Park's (KNP) elephant population is manageable and has not reached crisis levels, SA National Parks (SANParks) said on Friday.

A Sapa correspondent reported SANParks had rejected claims by the park's former director Dr Salomon Joubert, who said the elephant population in the area was a "huge problem".

KNP large mammal ecologist Sam Ferreira said the population was stabilising.

"The elephant population growth has decreased to 3.5% [a year].

"The bottom line is that the elephant population at KNP is stabilising, but differently in different landscapes."

Ferreira said that in 1994, when the park stopped elephant culling, there were about 8 000 elephants in the park, and the population was growing at 6.5% per annum.

"Predicting that would show that KNP should have 24 500 elephants in 2012," said Ferreira.

Ferreira said the 2012 elephant census counted 16 700 elephants in the park.

Joubert reportedly said there was an over-abundance of elephants in the park.

Ecosystems

"The animals have knocked the daylights out of important ecosystems in certain parts of the park, and it is going to be extremely difficult or impossible to reduce the population to manageable levels," Joubert said.

He believed that thousands of elephants needed to be culled to control the population.

Ferreira said SANParks sought to manage the effect of elephants and not the elephants per se.

"We have taken the lead and are focusing on managing direct mechanisms of ecological conflict effects. Elephant culling is part of our management plan, as well as the closure of artificial water-holes and increasing the size of the park to allow easy movement by elephants."

Though the elephant population size was increasing, it was doing so at a slower rate due to declining birth rates, he said.

"This accounts for the lower than predicted number of elephants. SANParks considers this as strong evidence for natural control of elephants."

Ferreira admitted that the elephant poaching crisis in neighbouring Mozambique could spill over into the KNP.

In a 2011 aerial survey of Mozambique's Niassa Reserve, 2 667 elephant carcasses were counted.

According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the illicit trade in ivory is estimated to have doubled since 2007 and more than tripled over the past 15 years.

Read more on:    sanparks  |  mozambique  |  mbombela  |  poaching  |  southern africa

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