March 18, 2008

Renowned Conservationist Leakey Supports Elephant Culling

Richard Leakey, former head of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, has announced his support of the culling of elephants in South Africa.

This comes 14 years after the South African government's decision to ban culling of elephants in 1994. At that time, Leakey supported the ban because it "appeared to be largely commercially motivated (for ivory and trade in baby elephants)."

In just over a decade, the population of elephants is estimated to have grown from 8,000 to 18,000.

Last month, environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk called for culling of the elephant population.

Leakey claims that population management is necessary, yet "repugnant."

Others strongly disagree, namely those of environment and animal welfare groups, who have gone as far as to call for tourist boycotts in protest of the decision.

Leakey said that much has changed since the 1980s, when he became a prominent figure in the campaign against elephant culling.

"While I will never "Ëœlike' the idea of elephant culling, I do accept that given the impacts of human induced climate change, and habitat destruction, elephants in and outside of protected areas will become an increasingly serious problem unless some key populations are reduced and maintained at appropriate levels," Leakey writes in an article titled "ËœIs Culling Imminent for South African Elephants?'

After studying other options such as enclosures, translocation, and contraception's, South African officials found culling was the most effective option.

Leakey said he was pleased at the government's approach to the delicate situation.

"I was pleasantly surprised to find that the guiding principles behind this piece of legislation begins with acknowledgement that "Ëœelephants are intelligent, have strong family bonds and operate within highly socialised groups and unnecessary disruption of these groups by human intervention should be minimized,' Leakey wrote in a statement.

Leakey continues to believe that when it comes to conflicts between humans and elephants, humans must also make crucial changes to find a solution. Although he supports the new legislation, Leakey said he hopes that culling won't be a necessary action in the future.

"I look forward to seeing new legislation that completely eliminates cruelty in the captive care and training of these highly intelligent and feeling animals," he said.


On the Net:

"Is culling imminent for South African elephants?"

Kenyan Wildlife Service