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Media Release - 21 October 2004

SANParks presents its stand on Elephant Manangement

South African National Parks (SANParks) Executive Director of Conservation Services Mr Hector Mogame presented the SANParks' proposed strategy on elephant management to delegates of the Great Elephant Indaba at Berg-en-dal in the Kruger National Park today (Thursday October 21, 2004).

The plan - which will be finalized and submitted to the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Martinus van Schalkwyk in April next year - will, according to Magome, be based on holistic decisions and possible interventions, which include: increased area, translocation, culling, contraception, hunting, fencing, migration corridors or to do nothing (laissez-faire). But Magome conceded that all of these management interventions have their limitations.

Key principles used to formulate the strategy include: values and ethics, environmental considerations, social issues, economic issues, political climate and technological considerations. The needs of tourists were also considered as they have also complained about tree loss (particularly in the KNP) and "devastated landscapes" and SANParks management is often blamed for most of these issues.

One of the most important issues discussed during the three-day congress included the social and economic impact that elephants have, specifically their impact on neighbouring communities and the potential benefits of sustainable use.

Magome said: "The principle of elephant management needs to include the full spectrum of areas with low and high elephant densities, localized high elephant impact is important to maintaining biodiversity but it should not happen everywhere, all the time".

Magome added that the impacts on biodiversity have been measured. One of the studies conducted, noticed that out of 60 research sites around the KNP, by far the majority of them showed a decline in the prevalence of tall trees (above five metres).

He also highlighted the lessons learnt at other parks like Tsavo, Chobe and Amboseli in other parts of Africa, indicating that because management in these places took a decision to do nothing in some of them, certain endemic animal and plant species have been lost.

Another fact discussed is that of carrying capacity as being borrowed from livestock management principles, which has also been discontinued as it has little meaning in the context of biodiversity management. KNP (in particular) moved away from fixed numbers in 1995. "We are in an era of managing biodiversity and impacts to it and, as such, the concept of carrying capacity is a bit outdated," he said.

There is a move to re-evaluate the implementation of the 1999 Elephant Management Plan as it seems to be the most viable option. "This is not surprising as it was based on strategic ecological theory and that it went through a successful public review process. It is also well integrated with other management policies in the KNP," Magome added.

The proposed management plan of the KNP is based on differential zoning with the possibility of culling in areas of low elephant impact due to the lack of feasibility of other options. However, the other parts of the KNP will use a non-intervention model. This is believed to be the best strategy to mitigate risks to biodiversity and to its neighbours and it also allows us to learn through adaptive management.

Regarding other national parks with elephants - Addo, Marakele and Mapungubwe - the risk of biodiversity loss is considered higher in these parks but the areas are considered to be too small to include different zones other than fenced zones.

"We are very happy with the way the Elephant Indaba panned out and we really thank all the delegates who took time out of their busy schedules. Not only were we able to get valuable input for the eventual plan, but we were also able to reaffirm our commitment to biodiversity management," said SANParks Chief Executive Dr David Mabunda.

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Issued by:
Raymond Travers, Media Relations Practitioner, Kruger National Park. Contact: Tel: 013 735 4116, cell: 082 908 2677 or E-mail

Enquiries:
Wanda Mkhutshulwa, SANParks Head of Communication. Contact: Tel: 012 426 5201, cell: 082 908 2692 or E-mail