Is it time to cull? – a case study from northern KZN

Chris Barichievy1,  Peter Ruinard2

1 Zululand District Ecologist-Ezemvelo Kwazulu Natal Wildlife.
2 Conservation Manager, Ithala Game Reserve, Ezemvelo Kwazulu Natal Wildlife.

The debate over the possibility of renewed elephant culling in South African protected areas rages, with polarized opinion from various stakeholders. As a conservation authority abiding by the National Norms and Standards for elephant management, the decision for lethal population control is not taken lightly. It is incumbent upon Ezemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife to consider every available alternative before culling as a management tool. Each elephant population is considered within the context of its own system and management decisions lie at the level of the individual protected area.
Elephant form part of the complex socio-ecological system that constitutes a protected area, and management decisions are made based on stakeholder value sets and the latest available science.
Given that direct links between cause and effect are spurious by the very nature of complex systems, it is unlikely that direct evidence will be attributable to elephant impacts in many cases. The burden of proof of unwanted impact lies with the management authority and not the elephant population, and in the highly pressured political landscape of elephant management lack of cause-effect relationships force management into a state of inaction and a somewhat reactionary stance. Although inaction is a viable management solution, it must be considered no differently to any other management option, and not the status quo.
Using the case study of Ithala Game Reserve, we explore the practicalities of the management of an increasing elephant population in a small protected area. Decisions regarding this particular elephant population are discussed in the context of current ecological theory, decision making theory and the very real financial and practical constraints of management.

Presentation Topic

Is it time to cull? – a case study from northern KZN


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