14
Okt
2004

FATE OF SOUTH AFRICA’S ELEPHANTS HANGS IN THE BALANCE

---- please distribute also to your press-contacts


FATE OF SOUTH AFRICA’S ELEPHANTS HANGS IN THE BALANCE

PRESS ADVISORY: 14 October 2004. From Justice for Animals and Xwe African Wild Life

Once again the shadow of death hangs over the elephant clans in the Kruger National Park (KNP). Their future will be decided at an Indaba to be held in the Park from the 19-21 October. Two South African animal rights groups, Justice for Animals and Xwe African Wild Life, have joined forces to oppose the reintroduction of ‘culling’ on ethical and ecological grounds and they have the support of a number of prominent animal welfare and animal rights organisations across the globe.

The apartheid government, as beneficiaries of the lucrative but cruel ivory trade, killed elephants in the Kruger National Park relentlessly, and uninterrogated science was used to back up their dubious culling practices. After 1994, this killing culture and its scientific validity were brought into question by a South African animal rights organisation, FALCON (now Justice for Animals), and, as a result, the government placed a moratorium on the ‘culling’ of elephants in the KNP.

Some conservationists are now claiming that the KNP elephant population is exceeding the park’s carrying capacity. Moreover, renewed pressure from the consumptive use lobby - including the international trophy hunting lobby - that believes an elephant’s worth lies only in its economic value to human beings, is now threatening this moratorium.

"Justice for Animals (JA) and Xwe are totally opposed to the reintroduction of ‘culling’ as part of the South African National Parks (SANParks) elephant management plan. JA Chairperson, Steve Smit said: "Extensive research has shown that elephants are highly evolved, intelligent animals with complex social and emotional lives. Killing them as part of a management plan is both cruel and unethical".

Animal rights groups maintain that should a situation arise where it is shown on valid scientific grounds that the elephant population in the KNP, or any other conservation area, is having an unnaturally destructive effect on the environment, then various alternatives to culling should be employed. Such alternatives include the relocation of animals within trans-frontier parks, translocation to other parks, and now the promising option of using immuno-contraception to control elephant population numbers.

To make matters worse, there is no empirical evidence that elephants are causing excessive damage to the vegetation in sensitive areas in the KNP. But this is the main reason presented by SANParks for now considering ‘culling’ as an option to limit the number of elephants in the park. Smit said that, "JA and Xwe would challenge, on scientific grounds, any assertion by SANParks that the elephant population of the KNP is too high and necessitates reduction."

There are more insidious reasons, however, why ‘culling’ is being considered, namely: South Africa is the main proponent in Africa for reopening of the ivory trade and one way to undermine the ban is through the stockpiling of so-called "legal" ivory as a by-product of culling; and there is also unremitting pressure from trophy hunters to kill large-tusked bulls in the KNP. Instead of being havens for the protection of our natural heritage, SANParks may render our natural parks havens for the exploitation of animals by hunters and commercial interests.

Michele Pickover, Chairperson of Xwe African Wildlife said: "South Africa has a history of resorting to violence as a means of solving problems. So when it comes to the issue of elephant management in national parks there is a lot of pressure on authorities by vested interest groups who want to see elephants killed for selfish purposes. We should resist this pressure and, in our treatment of wildlife, we should strive to embody the more humane values that underpin the new South Africa".

"At the upcoming Indaba", Pickover said, "we intend to present a strong argument against ‘culling’ because we believe it is unnecessary, cruel and ethically indefensible. Killing elephants for fun, profit or socio-political expediency is morally reprehensible and we intend to do everything in our power to protect elephants in the KNP, and elsewhere, from harm."

Contacts:

Steve Smit of JA on:
082 659 4711 or 031 776 3167, e-mail: falconsa@worldonline.co.za

Michele Pickover of Xwe on:
082 253 2124 or 011 717 1940, e-mail xwe@sn.apc.org

David Bilchitz of Xwe/Ashira on:
0849515316 or 011 2686533 or e-mail davidb@ashira.co.za

Steve Smit
Justice for Animals
(formerly FALCON)
http://www.justiceforanimals.co.za
falconsa@worldonline.co.za
Reg.No. 002-562 NPO

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"
Martin Luther King


Informant: ECOTERRA Intl.
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