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  1. #81
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    Bruce Page at UKZN has done a lot of research on the issues raised in this interesting thread. Complex issue, and a few ethical dilemmas. Here is a link to some of his research :

    https://scholar.google.co.za/citatio...mtsAAAAJ&hl=en

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  3. #82
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    Quote Originally Posted by valodia View Post
    Bruce Page at UKZN has done a lot of research on the issues raised in this interesting thread. Complex issue, and a few ethical dilemmas. Here is a link to some of his research :

    https://scholar.google.co.za/citatio...mtsAAAAJ&hl=en
    Thanks for this. If I’m
    correct this was presented in 2007, it would be very interesting to see if and how opinions have changed.

    What we really need to see is the KNP elephant management plan. That’ll give us concrete details on how they plan to reduce numbers in a meaningful way, if at all.

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  5. #83
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    Quote Originally Posted by valodia View Post
    Bruce Page at UKZN has done a lot of research on the issues raised in this interesting thread. Complex issue, and a few ethical dilemmas. Here is a link to some of his research :

    https://scholar.google.co.za/citatio...mtsAAAAJ&hl=en
    Thank you, very good explanatory article with sensible arguments.
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  6. #84
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    Don't know if this has been posted already, but here is an interesting article regarding this, from someone who I find to be quite knowledgeable and level-headed.

    https://africageographic.com/stories...phant-problem/

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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    Quote Originally Posted by valodia View Post
    Bruce Page at UKZN has done a lot of research on the issues raised in this interesting thread. Complex issue, and a few ethical dilemmas. Here is a link to some of his research :

    https://scholar.google.co.za/citatio...mtsAAAAJ&hl=en
    Thanks! Good read.

    Here is the essence of the piece for those who don't have time to read it all.

    Conclusions
    In conclusion, we reiterate the following points highlighted in this review:
    1. The previously maintained ceiling of around 7000 elephants in the KNP should not be construed as a carrying capacity.
    2. Manipulating elephant numbers alone may have ramifying consequences.
    3. Big trees have declined in the KNP despite past capping of elephant numbers.
    4. There is no benchmark against which to judge an ideal vegetation state for the KNP.
    5. Claimed disaster scenarios from elsewhere have been greatly exaggerated.
    6. Plant species losses have been documented in the Addo Elephant National Park and are a cause for concern.
    7. Concepts of a balance of nature are outmoded.
    8. Establishing a heterogeneous spatial template is more effective than continually counteracting change.
    9. Density feedbacks must ultimately curtail the growth in the elephant population.
    10. Further research needs to be focused most crucially on factors governing elephant movements and recruitment processes in savanna woodlands.


    In this context, we suggest the following considerations to guide management responses:
    1. Since there is no easy solution, different measures need to be applied and tested through adaptive management.
    2. Management should be spatially differentiated, and may involve zoning some areas as ‘elephant sanctuaries’ and others as ‘tree sanctuaries’ with clearly specified objectives.
    3. Further research is needed to establish how elephants distribute their effects over space and the local conditions allowing tree regeneration to occur.
    4. Reliable models of interactive ecosystem dynamics are required to project when threshold conditions of irreversibility are being approached.
    5. Interventions may be needed to counteract likely lags in the elephant–woodland interaction, but with the need for action lessening as the size of the protected area gets larger.
    6. It would be more effective, less costly and less contentious to establish a spatial template in order to restrict the extent of severe elephant impacts on vegetation, than continually to cull elephants.
    7. Socio-political issues seem of more immediate concern than ecological ones, at least in the KNP.
    8. The case for active intervention is stronger in smaller reserves, but other measures could reduce the need for culling.
    9. Management interventions need to be backed by sufficiently informative monitoring of the consequences.


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  9. #86
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    Good article above.
    It seems that in spite of a tremendous amount of research already done there is always more required to make decisions.
    But do we have enough time?

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  11. #87
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    To me, this actually makes a whole lot sense and is the zest of their argument:

    Targeting the problem Blanket culling of elephants to contain population increase is a crude response to a problem that is not simply one ofelephant numbers, but rather of the spatial and temporal distribution of the impacts of a segment of the population within specific landscapes. It is costly,
    enduring and distracting for managers. Interventions need not entail killing many elephants. Restricting the availability of surface water in sensitive regions
    has already been suggested above.

    Localized harassment, which may require killing some animals, could be focused particularly on the bulls, which are responsible
    for a disproportionate share of the most severe impacts on trees. For the KNP, progress towards identifying specific sources of worry has already
    been made through the specification of ‘thresholds of potential concern’ (TPCs) by its scientists in consultation with outside experts.

    These thresholds need to be made spatially explicit. For example, the elimination of big trees may be tolerated in some regions as long as other areas
    remain where these assets persist. Limitations in spatial heterogeneity even within large protected areas like the KNP could be alleviated through expansion
    of the area available for elephant movements by developments such as the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which may ultimately stretch over more
    than 36 000 km2.
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  13. #88
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    Maybe this was mentioned: but wasn't the establishment of a trans-frontier park done to solve some of these overpopulation issues?
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    Quote Originally Posted by jelo View Post
    Maybe this was mentioned: but wasn't the establishment of a trans-frontier park done to solve some of these overpopulation issues?
    Yes in part. The idea was that as soon as the population pressure increases some will cross the boundaries into neighboring areas where few occur.
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    Quote Originally Posted by jelo View Post
    Maybe this was mentioned: but wasn't the establishment of a trans-frontier park done to solve some of these overpopulation issues?
    The Moz side filled up within a couple of years. There is very little water in the dry season, so most of the elephant return to Kruger. This has made the Transfrontier Park's contribution negligible, therefore.

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  17. #91
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    Quote Originally Posted by RobH View Post
    Contraception on females needs to be done once a year, males every six months. Assuming twenty thousand ellies in Kruger and 75% female breeders that’s about 40 - 50 animals per day that need to be darted from the air. Think of the logistics and expense of that.

    Then factor in that elephants do need to breed (they go moggie if you don’t let them, such is their social structure). So now you have to let some slip through the system yearly, and then not for the next few years. Given their numbers it’s another physical impossibility to process and monitor.

    All conservation areas now have to conform to NEMA protocols (its the new wildlife management act). It makes provision for contraception and culling, both after rigorous research and motivation. But, as has been pointed out, there is a huge backlash to culling and it is going to take a massive set of balls to push it through.
    Thanks Rob, so it is really just a numbers game (one of the Page references indicates that biochemical contraception may be an alternative in smaller reserves)? As you note in a way; you do no have to go to zero growth. I am not saying SA can do it alone; the talk I heard, that made a very positive impression on me, was that external (US) funding was available. Difficult to challenge and evaluate, particularly 15 years of inaction down the track.

  18. #92
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    Quote Originally Posted by Leeubok View Post
    I wouldn't go as far as saying they are bowing to the greenies. As I said, I simply don't understand the science/model/thinking behind their new management strategy. It is an incredibly complex issue, and easy to criticize from the outside
    I may not work for SANParks but habitat surveys and stocking capacities and ratios is one of the things I do. No matter how one slices the cake there is only so much to go around.

    Options to reduce elephant population:

    Birth control: Discussed already and it's not an option. In fact it is a distinct waste of limited resources and will never ever work with the current population levels. If it was only a matter of using it on a few dozen or so a year then you might have a fighting chance. Not even taking into consideration the fact that it will have adverse behavioural impacts.

    Artificial habitat control/manipulation: Positive moves such as breeching man made dams will have little effect especially with the population sitting at about 22 000. Zonal controls will not work with elephants. When has a fence ever stopped one in the past. They go where the food is. Elephants reproduce faster than large canopy trees repopulate. Maybe they should buy up all the land around the parks and put in tree nurseries (TIC!)

    Relocation: Limited success and very costly. In fact where do you move them to? Nobody wants them they all have over population problems of their own. We could repopulate other countries where they have been poached out. But who is going to fund that? Not the NGO/greenies/CITIES. And once there they will probably just be poached out again.

    Culling: At the current population number there is no other way to reduce the numbers. One must remember we are not talking about a 5% over population, we are talking over 200%, roughly taking 15 000 individuals out of the equation.

    Hunting: Very contentious in the parks. But how else are you going to generate the capital to cut the ties to the NGO/greenie/CITIES crowd? Yes it does have an effect on the surviving individuals but then again the elephant in the park are entirely to "tamed", they are after all wild animals not walking pets.

    If we are ever to have realistic and effective management of our wildlife and parks the decisions need to be made by those in the know not by politicians with little to zero interest beyond their elephant skin wallet.

    The problems of what to do with 15 000 carcasses is a secondary concern it can be done in line with abattoir capacity. They can be used to in situ to feed predators and scavengers.

    Every year we dodge the problem it grows... exponentially! Unfortunately if we can't increase the land available the numbers have to be controlled ANNUALLY! Almost every argument for a new fangled management style is based on pressure / human emotion / other... instead of just getting the job done!!

    Provided no more land could be provided to extend the park the best management option is culling, in fact it is actually hunting. But you have a snowballs chance in hell of this ever being adopted. Such a pity as it solves myriad problems (population, funding, ecosystem/habitat quality etc)
    Last edited by gazza1210; 2021/10/04 at 12:37 PM.
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  20. #93
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    Default Re: Elephants in the KNP

    The clock keeps on ticking - the elephant numbers keep on growing while people fiddle with mathematical formulas and meta populations and corridors into Zimbabwe and into Mozambique while the rest of the 2 million hectares of the KNP burns so to speak.

    And where does the number of 22 000 in the park come from?

    In 2015 an aerial count by helicopter was conducted which indicated that there were 17 086 elephants in the KNP. This number was used by the IUCN in their African elephant status report published in 2016. It was also used to illustrate that the growth rate in elephant numbers, since the closure of the artificial water holes, managing the landscapes instead of the number of elephants had dropped down from the traditional 6 ˝% to 4.2%. The landscape management approach's objective had been met. Calves and old cows had died a slow death of thirst, as intended, the natural way.

    Then in March this year - 2021- Minister Barbara Creese gave a written reply in Parliament to answer question number 549 that went something like this, amongst other points :- When last was a census of elephants in the KNP undertaken and what was the outcome of such census?

    The written reply went something like this:-

    The last time a census of the number of elephants in the KNP was undertaken was in 2017 and that was on a basis of block counts that were extrapolated.
    On this basis the estimated number of elephants in the KNP in 2017 was between 21 000 and 23 700 elephants. The midpoint of this range is 22 350, a reasonable point to take a measurement from.

    So it is reasonable to say that in a matter of two years the elephant population had grown by 5 264 elephants (the original carrying capacity set by KNP scientists Piet Van Wyk and Neil Fairall was 6 500 which was rounded up to 7 000). So 31 % was added to the 2015 count representing a compounded annual growth rate of 14.3% per annum. Apply this annual growth rate to the midpoint of 22 350 elephants for four years and the number in 2021 is now close to 38 000 elephants.

    But scientists assert that there is no way that the elephant growth rate can possibly be 14.3 %. The recognised norm has always been 6 ˝%. When culling was stopped in 1994 there were 7 806 elephants in the KNP according to Dr Ian Whyte's table. Apply the 6 ˝% to that number for the 27 years that the elephant population has been growing.

    The answer is over 42 000. Not a surprising set of confusing concepts when, since 2007, it has been drummed into the KNP thinking that you cannot count elephants in an area the size of the KNP. Yet a high degree of confidence was placed on the helicopter based annual counts conducted for 33 years before that. The table of annual counts that Dr Ian Whyte produced shows a steady growth - not big swings downwards.

    An adult elephant consumes around 50 tons of biomass in a year. In addition to this it is a very wasteful feeder with between 25 - 50% more than actual consumption being wasted - take a point of 33% which brings the amount of biomass that is extracted to around 66 tons each year. How much biomass gets replenished in a year? And the concept of a carrying capacity is outmoded? On what basis? A head in the sand basis? The only basis is that it suits the narrative of not culling which is in effect the one and only tool that is effective, not only in safeguarding the KNP's biomass but also ensuring that the remaining elephant population remains healthy.

    Have a look at the following YouTube link on what has happened in Gonarezhou, a place that I have camped in on two different occasions but that before this movie was shot and the landscapes were different then.


    As someone has already noted, it will take 150 years for large canopy trees to be replaced. A lot of blame for the condition in Chobe has been placed on the impala eating the saplings. But it is not the sapling loss that is the real problem. Impala do not push over mature trees let alone a tree that has been standing for a mere 10 years!

    It is said that the elephant population in Chobe is stabilising but Rowan Martin says not so. This is a false interpretation as Botswana is "pumping" out elephants into the Caprivi (I was there three years ago and elephants are prolific) into Namibia, into Angola and into Zambia. And believe it or not into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve from which I returned three weeks ago. The Khuke Veterinary Fence, erected in 1958 along the northern boundary of the CKGR to protect the Botswana beef industry from foot and mouth disease has been trashed in multiple places by elephant herd after elephant herd crossing the fence into the CKGR and, as they do, pushing over trees there. When that fence was erected way back then, at an enormous cost of dead wildebeest and zebra dying along the fence because they could no longer migrate in search of water, (I recall seeing the carcasses piled up many years ago) it was never envisaged that the fence would be impacted by elephants. They were hundreds of kilometres away. Nxai Pan is overrun by elephants now.

    There is only one reason why the elephants are leaving Chobe giving the impression that their numbers have stabilised there. Chobe has gone the way Gonarezhou has, gone the way Tsavo in Kenya did 55 years ago. Simply not sufficient nutrition left to sustain the density of elephants that has evolved.

    Our Kruger Park is heading in the same direction while the clock keeps on ticking, the elephant population keeps on growing and a fiddle of a hypothesis (unproven theory) of meta populations, corridors and Transfrontier Park range expansion is played while the rest of the 2 million hectares of the Kruger burns.
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