About The Culling Of Elephants In Botswana

I am amazed at how many elephant management experts there are in the Western World.  Gauged by the number of letters of advice that land upon the desk of the Botswana President, Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi, there must be thousands.  Now we have more advice from a well-known South African, John Varty, who has never conducted an elephant culling operation in his life – but who, none-the-less, has all the answers to Botswana’s massively-excessive elephant population management problem.

Here is my tuppence worth of input to this debate:

Botswana currently suffers from a gross over-population of elephants that started some 60 years ago.  No culling or any other kind of overt management has been practised on Botswana’s elephants in all this time – thanks to the inadequacies of Mr Masisi’s predecessors, – especially the most recent, Mr Ian Khama, who, when he was in office, listened to the advice of nobody but his animal rightists friends. And THEY all demanded that TOTAL PROTECTION MANAGEMENT be applied to Botswana’s elephants… which is a recipe for disaster.

Mr Khama obtained most of his advice from a (strongly animal rightist) film-making cameraman called Derek Joubert, whose expertise is definitely NOT elephant management. Mr Joubert, however, like other animal-rights-orientated tourism operators in Botswana, in forging a friendship with Mr Khama, was looking after his own parochial interests – TOURISM.  Mr Khama is himself a tourism-orientated businessman.  And Mr Joubert persuaded Mr Khama into believing that, for tourism to prosper in Botswana, it was necessary to constantly bombard the country’s tourists with massive wildlife spectacles – like huge herds of elephants – every hour of every day.  He never once gave a thought to the utterly destroyed habitats in which these elephants lived, nor to the fact that maintaining elephants in these numbers was NOT ecologically sustainable.

Nobody seems to understand – or to care – that sustainable tourism can only be constructed on the establishment and maintenance of well-balanced ecosystems inside the national parks.  If the ecosystems (comprising soils, plants and animals) are not stable and well-balanced, they will eventually collapse; and when they collapse so will whatever eco-tourism structures that have been constructed upon them. So the first rule of thumb in the management of an African national park – in the interests of the park’s wild animals and in the interests of eco-tourism – is to create and to maintain a well-balanced ecosystem. Mr Khama obviously did not know this. Neither do his animal rightist tourism-business associates – his erstwhile primary advisers.

But Mr Masisi DOES know this, and he is striving, against gigantic odds from an ignorant and misled First World public, to rectify that which his predecessors have ignored.

For many years elephant bulls were allowed to be hunted in Botswana – several hundred every year – and all this did was to (slightly) increase the preponderance of breeding females in the Botswana elephant population.  Hence, during the 1990s already, Botswana’s elephants were increasing at the rate of 8.3 percent per annum – which gives a population doubling time of about nine years. (An incremental rate of 7.2 percent per annum gives an exact population doubling time of 10 years.)  There has never – in Botswana’s history – been an elephant management strategy applied that has taken cognizance of elephant numbers, with relative regard to the elephant carrying capacity of the Botswana habitats.

Devastation of habitat for lifetimes to come. Image: Theodore George Pistorius

As a consequence of all this past MIS-management, the elephants of Botswana have grown in number every year for the last 60 years. And during the height of every dry season – August/ September/October/early-November – they have annually eaten out all edible grass and palatable woody plants within 25 kms of the dry season waterholes.  And I mean they have eaten the edible vegetation FLAT – into extinction.

Huge numbers of large top-canopy trees have been wiped out (including whole groves of ancient baobab trees – some over 5000 years old); many favourite-food tree species have been eaten into extinction; and entire ecosystems (for example, riverine forests; and deciduous Acacia/Combretum woodlands) have completely disappeared – leaving behind exposed Kalahari sand-soil and little else.  And, in the teak forests (which elephants don’t fancy eating) they have demolished the understory plant communities in their entirety.

Most of the big Baobabs in upper Delta already destroyed – going for the last younger trees now. Image: Theodore George Pistorius

Under these conditions, as the dry season advances every year, the elephants find it harder and harder to find enough food to stay alive; and as each dry season month passes, they get thinner and thinner.  Lactating mothers are the worst affected. And as their milk dries up so their baby calves (which are dependent on mother’s milk for survival during their first three years of life) are abandoned.  They are abandoned because, without their mother’s milk, the babies do not have the energy to walk the (x2) 25 km journey, with their mothers – from the water, to the herd’s food supply, and back to the water again – each day.  These baby elephants die of starvation, of thirst and/or of heat fatigue; or in the absence of their mothers, they killed and eaten by lions and hyenas.

THIS is the reality of life – and death – for baby elephants in Botswana in this day and age. One benefit of this state of affairs – if you can call it a benefit – is that the multiple baby elephant deaths each year, slows down the otherwise very fast rate of natural elephant population expansion.

Another reality of this scenario is that every other species of herbivorous wild animal is plagued with the same problem – finding enough food to stay alive during the dry season (because the elephants have long ago eaten up all the edible plants). And (like the baby elephants) – because of inadequate nutrition – these other animals do not have the physical strength to make the 25 kms hike (each way) – between water and the location of the distant food supply. So, these lesser animals have to ‘somehow’ find enough food in this plant-less desert to stay alive – or they die.  And they do die!!!  In 2013, the Botswana government admitted that all other game species that shared the demolished habitats with the elephants, were in free-fall decline by, on average, 60 percent.  Some species were down in number that year, by 90 percent.

And another majestic Baobab destroyed by elephants. Image: Marietjie Viljoen

The reality is, therefore, that by hosting far too many elephants for far too long, Botswana’s past political leadership sacrificed the country’s biological diversity.  Now we have Mokgweetsi Masisi in the saddle – a man of foresight and integrity, who wants to rectify all these wrongs – and all he is getting for his trouble is undeserved invective from people in the First World who do not understand that what Masisi is prescribing is EXACTLY what Botswana needs.

Seronga and upper Delta are devastated by huge amounts of Elephants as we speak —almost all ancient Boababs destroyed and most big trees de barked and dying -this will not recover for lifetimes to come. Image: Theodore George Pistorius

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildlife management is the action that man takes to achieve man-desired objectives; and culling is the prescribed management practice for reducing an animal population, every year, by its annual increment – ONLY. Culling, therefore, serves the purpose of keeping the elephant population numbers stable.

This, however, is NOT what Botswana’s elephants need at this time.  Botswana’s elephants now number between 10 and 20 times the sustainable carrying capacity of their habitats.  They, therefore, need drastic “population reduction management” which has the objective of reducing the size of the elephant population very quickly.

Population reduction management will reduce Botswana’s elephants in numbers that are far above the annual population incremental rate.  And they will need to be continually reduced in such very large numbers – for several years – until they reach a population number that the habitats can once again sustainably support. The botanical scientists will know when that number has been reached when they record that the habitats have started to recover.

Unless THIS be the management objective – and unless it is achieved – whoever is doing the management of Botswana’s elephants, will be wasting his time.  And pussy-footing around this emotionally-charged and delicate subject is also just a waste of time.  The public needs to have the management needs of Botswana’s elephants explained to them “cold-turkey”.

Dealing with the byproducts of population reduction, however, is a secondary consideration. We must never lose sight of the fact that the purpose of the exercise is to reduce the number of elephants.  Having said THAT, however, responsible and civilised people do not waste valuable natural resources.

Now we have another dubious expert pontificating about abattoirs, where they should be located and how they should be operated.  I have carried out elephant population reduction exercises during my long career in African national parks – extensively – and I can tell you that you will have to reduce Botswana’s elephants in very large numbers – for several years – to make any kind of impression on their numbers. Far more elephants will have to be ‘taken-off’ each day, therefore, than even a herd of abattoirs could ever handle.

What happens next (after an abattoir has been constructed) – as happened in Kruger National Park – is that the capacity of the abattoir to handle ‘X’ number of elephant carcasses per day, becomes the official factor that prescribes how many elephants you can “cull” (or kill) every day. And THAT is putting the cart well before the horse.

Nevertheless, it is possible to kill 50 elephants a day – have 15 carcasses processed by an abattoir each day – and have the remaining 35 carcasses processed ‘in the field’.   THAT would work! BUT it is NOT O.K. to kill just 15 elephants a day because THAT is all the abattoir can handle.   The essence of a population reduction exercise is to reduce the number of elephants. It is NOT to keep abattoirs operating at maximum efficiency. And the wildlife manager must NOT lose sight of that priority consideration.

You don’t actually have to have an abattoir at all to effect elephant population reduction in Botswana. In Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park – where I headed the management team that reduced that national park’s elephant population from 5000 to 2500 in 1971/72:

  • We killed, on average, 41.6 elephants a day, every day;
  • We carried out all the biological work necessary on every carcass (and exactly the same data was recovered in the field in the Gonarezhou as was recovered by the South African scientists during the culling era (1967 to 1994) in the sophisticated Kruger National Park abattoir);
  • Each animal was measured, sexed and fully biopsied;
  • The hide was collected in panels, cleaned, salted and stacked;
  • The meat was collected – cut into strips – salted and dried on chicken-wire racks in the sun (and thus turned into biltong that was deemed, by the veterinarians, to be suitable for human consumption);
  • The ivory was collected, cleaned and indelibly punch-stamped; and
  • The remnant bones and guts was all buried deep in the ground – EVERY DAY!
  • NOTHING – except the intestines and the bones – was really ‘wasted’.

NB: Bulls – because they live in their own communities away from the cows – were shot, individually (or in small groups), with heavy calibre hunting rifles. We were conscious of the fact that. Ideally, we should kill one adult bull for every adult cow that we killed in the breeding herds. In practice, however, THAT didn’t happen. However, Botswana’s intention to resume elephant-bull hunting will ‘roughly’ take care of the number of bulls that should be removed from the population, too.

The killing operation itself was carried out by three (hand-picked) highly expert game-ranger elephant-hunters, hunting in unison as a team and shooting at point blank range. We used British (=R1) military rifles – The NATO SLR (Self-Loading Rifle) (7.62 mm) – using ordinary pointed military bullets.  And the three of us regularly ‘put down’ between 30 and 50 elephants inside the time span of just 60 seconds.  One bullet – one brain-shot – one dead elephant. The biggest number we killed and successfully handled in one day was 57.  So ALL this can be done – VERY HUMANELY; in the field; without an abattoir; and without helicopters.

NB: Some sound and solid advice: Don’t use helicopters. We used a Piper Super-Cub as our spotter aircraft instead – and it fitted the bill admirably.  The elephants ignored the soft hum of this light aircraft’s engine overhead.

 The very presence of a helicopter in the sky above a herd of elephants, scares the living daylights out of every individual – even those that have never seen a helicopter before. I had a helicopter at my disposal during the entire Gonarezhou exercise (both years) and when I realized just how badly they affect the elephant herds on the ground – scattering them and having every elephant running in panic for the hills – I stopped using it.

As far as the remaining elephants “losing trust” with man – after an elephant population reduction exercise was over – all I can tell you is my experience in this matter.  We excluded all tourism activity during the killing exercise itself – but we allowed tourists back into the Gonarezhou National Park after the operation – just a week after we had cleared the ground of all our equipment.   And we encountered NO post-operation elephant aggression towards our visitors.  This was, perhaps, because we killed every elephant in every breeding herd that we tackled; none escaped wounded; none escaped unwounded.

With regards to the observation that elephant-proof fences “cut off elephant migration routes”. That just doesn’t happen – simply because elephants do NOT “migrate” – not in the proper sense of that word.

The core of an elephant’s home range is that part of its year-round habitat that it occupies during the very restrictive dry season period. This is the range that an elephant is forced to live in during the dry season because water is then the limiting and determining factor – with regards to just where an elephant can or cannot live at that time of the year.

As soon as the rains arrive, and surface water becomes NON-LIMITING, the elephant herds disperse in all directions, over (in the case of Botswana) hundreds of kilometers – moving, during the rains, into Namibia, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe (Hwange National Park).

Nevertheless, throughout the wet season elephants regularly visit the dry season part of their home range, too.  This means that an elephant’s home-range ‘pulses’ with the seasons: being restricted during the dry season and very expansive during the summer rains – but no part of its overall annual home range is ever completely abandoned.

Animals that truly migrate vacate their winter home range completely – and THAT does NOT happen with elephants. Elephants can be found wandering through their dry season home-range throughout the year.

And, with regard to elephants and fences, they very quickly learn how an elephant-proof game fence restricts their movements.  Mr Varty’s observations about fences and other game animals, however, might well be valid – and Botswana has experience with this phenomenon. Some years ago, I am informed, tens of thousands of plains game animals died on the foot-and-mouth game fences that had been erected to safeguard Botswana’s beef-export industry with Europe.

Nevertheless, elephants can be beneficially restricted to their sanctuary reservations – without any adverse effects – by the use of elephant-proof game fencing.

The only proviso to this observation is that they should ALWAYS be maintained in numbers that do not exceed the carrying capacities of their habitats.  Whether or not other game animals – like zebra and wildebeest – can be correctly considered ‘ migrants’, is not an issue that needs to be discussed in this dissertation – which is purely concerned with elephants and their management needs.

Game proof fences will also be a necessity if Botswana is to follow the South African game ranch model, too.  So our judgments about the goodness or the badness of game fences should not be too magnanimous or too harsh.  Fences have their uses in modern day wildlife management.

Mr Varty is correct in saying that Botswana is a beautiful country with an abundance of free-ranging wildlife; and, yes, it is probably true to say that it is the envy of every country in Africa.

But the current wildlife management state of affairs in Botswana – where the habitats have been annually trashed for the last 60 years by too many elephants – also tells us that the present wild animal (especially elephant) populations are unsustainable.

Under the current elephant population pressure, sooner or later, the wildlife ecosystems of Botswana will collapse – indeed, they are starting to collapse as I write these words – and, when that happens, everything else will crash, too.  In this process, Botswana will lose:

  • All its unique biological diversity;
  • The fascinating physio-gnomic character of its game reserves; and
  • Its tourism infrastructure will become an anachronism – because the massive wildlife spectacles (especially the never-ending displays of hundreds and thousands of elephants – that Botswana’s tourist operators current rely upon to attract visitors) – will have disappeared.

Mr Masisi’s plans, therefore….

  • To reduce the grossly excessive elephant numbers to a level that will allow the already trashed and massively ‘desertified’ habitats to recover their former glory:
  • From that basis to rebuild the strength and the vigour of the currently terribly degraded soils;
  • To enable the full recovery of the heavily damaged plant communities (the habitats);
  • To enable the currently dysfunctional ecosystems in the Botswana sanctuaries to recover; and
  • To effect recovery of the FULL SPECTRUM of Botswana’s wonderful wild animal species populations, and fascinating wild plants, in a state of balance with their ecosystems…

… is the right way to address this most important and vexing environmental problem.

I, therefore, agree with Mr Masisi’s plans to introduce an elephant population reduction (culling) programme for Botswana. I agree that he should re-introduce elephant hunting as an additional population reduction measure; and I agree that the local rural people of Botswana should become part of a symbiotic partnership arrangement with government in the process of this entire exercise.  Only when the rural people accrue significant survival benefits from ’their’ elephants will they be incentivized enough to work WITH government to stop all illegal hunting activities – by anybody and everybody.

Further than that, I will not be so arrogant as to tell Mr Masisi HOW he should bring this massive programme into effect.

I make just two further suggestions: that Botswana should not restrict its elephant population reduction programme to the daily capacity of one (or more) abattoirs to handle “X” number of elephant carcasses.

The population reduction exercise is too important a task, and too big a task, for anyone in the government of Botswana to lose sight of the purpose of the population reduction programme.  And, in that regard, I recommend that the Botswana Government should agree to a primary population reduction target – and that they should stick to it; and that that primary objective should be to reduce the elephant numbers in Botswana – whatever they may be – to 50 percent of the current standing population number.

The final conclusion to this population reduction exercise – how many MORE elephants will need to be taken off – can and should be determined ONLY following the conclusion of this first step in the exercise.

Ron Thomson

RON THOMSON His passion, today, is concerned with creating a better informed society – better informed, that is, about “best practice” wildlife management and the wise and sustainable utilization of our wild living resources for the benefit of mankind. He has a strong and passionate commitment to exposing the menace and iniquities of the animal rights doctrine. He is a founding member of the True Green Alliance (TGA) and, for the duration of 2016, he was its President. In January 2017 he was appointed CEO. The TGA is affiliated to South Africa’s wildlife Industry insofar as it has undertaken to fight the industry’s battles to overcome pernicious opposition from the South African and international animal rights movement.

Ron Thomson has 150 posts and counting. See all posts by Ron Thomson

38 thoughts on “About The Culling Of Elephants In Botswana

  • March 19, 2019 at 4:17 pm
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    This has to be done for the good of all wildlife in Botswana. Well done to you Mr President!

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    • July 9, 2019 at 10:14 am
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      The journalist who wrote this article is also a Westerner. Just saying 🙂

      Reply
  • March 25, 2019 at 7:14 am
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    Really well said.
    If the soil dies
    So do all the animals

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    • September 9, 2019 at 12:43 pm
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      Well said RAY. Ron

      Reply
  • April 2, 2019 at 7:23 pm
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    Yup, keep those westerners other than DSC and Safari Club out of the decision making process in Africa.
    After all- these hunting orgs are the experts!
    Wait until the public backlash when the inevitable hunting PR disasters start showing up.
    Elephants shot and running for their lives after being shot at waterholes!

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    • April 3, 2019 at 10:11 am
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      Sarcasm will get you nowhere, Mr William Huard. The management of elephants in Africa is a very serious matter. It cannot be determined by the man in the street; it cannot be determined by DSC or SCI – because they are NOT experts in elephant management. Only experienced wildlife managers can determine what needs to be done! And your imagination is running riot. Hunting will not take place where the non-hunting public frequent. So get back into your box go back to where you came from. YOU, clearly, cannot contribute ANY KIND of common sense to this debate!

      RT

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      • June 15, 2019 at 5:07 am
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        You have pig shit for brains Thomson – you are a serial killing psychopath and everyone outside your little circle of influence knows it.

        When you have killed off the only thing of value in Botswana and they figure out your little get rich scheme, they will come for you.

        I hope they post a video of your execution.

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        • June 17, 2019 at 8:09 am
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          Dear “Robin of the West”

          Other than your rich vulgarity – of which I disapprove – I get your message. You want to save elephants.
          So we have one thing in common. I also want to save elephants – for posterity. But we do not agree how that can be achieved.

          “Conservation” (as you call it) is a word that many people use nowadays as though it means “wildlife management” – which it doesn’t at all. So, instead of being a “know all” who prescribes how Africa’s wildlife should be managed, why don’t you allow The TRUE GREEN ALLIANCE to teach you what makes the world of wildlife go round? Most of the information you will need to achieve such knowledge is already inscribed on our website: https://www.mahohboh.org.

          Kind regards,

          Ron Thomson

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          • June 17, 2019 at 8:46 am
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            Count me in Robin of the West
            The BW government is in this to stay in power conning the rural communities they give a damn and get rich on the back of ass hole hunters
            Paying money that won’t get to any communities killing off the wildlife. They’ve had ample opportunities to help the communities by sharing our more of the photo tourism income including higher taxes on the lodges – but they did nothing . Enter Safari Club offering rich rewards to pocket and suddenly the communities are so important. This old psycho Thomson is making money somewhere here now he claims he’s done killing wildlife to conserve it – what was it ? 5000 elephants – and countless rest. All for a fee.

          • June 19, 2019 at 3:03 pm
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            Dear Nigel,

            You are so wrong. “Hunting elephants” in small numbers is about using a sustainable resource – that is capable of doubling its numbers every ten years – to make a lot of money that will fill the pockets of Africa’s poor rural communities. Killing a few hundred elephants in Botswana every year is much taking a basketful of eggs from your chicken coop every morning – and eating them for breakfast. It has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to with developing “BEST PRACTICE” elephant management. And what better way to take money out of rich people’s pockets in the West and feed it into the pockets of the rural poor in Africa? THATS THE WAY TO SOLVE AFRICA’S COMMERCIAL POACHING PROBLEM. The real driving force behind poaching by rural peasants is POVERTY. If you can remove the poverty factor you will, automatically, help to stop the poaching. So what YOU are doing by running your mouth out with obscenities, is castigating something that you do not understand and that does not exist; and thereby you are denying the relief of poverty that WILL achieve exactly what YOU want to achieve.

            I don’t make a single cent out of my elephant management recommendations. And all my elephant hunting (management hunting) was done 50 years ago… so why all the furore in this day and age? The horse has long ago bolted from the stable. But the problem persists. Why don’t you let me explain to you the rationale surrounding elephant management and YOU can do an awful lot of good for both elephants and Africa’s national parks. Instead, at the moment, you are sprouting an awful lot of raw hogwash into the public domain. Nevertheless, I believe you DO “care about elephants” – so let me tell you how you can REALLY help!

            In good faith.

            Ron Thomson

  • April 5, 2019 at 9:43 pm
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    Mr. Thomson

    I just Joined Tru-Green today, after several attempts to navigate the system over time. It is not the easiest to figure out.

    Anyway, For what it is worth, in 2013, I saw the elephant devastated lands in Botswana’s Chobe National Park during a side visit while hunting in Zimbabwe.

    I wrote about it and showed pictures in a post on my blog called “The Smoke of Africa.”

    The relevant post is titled “The Elephant-Burnt Lands of Chobe National Park.”

    http://thesmokeofafrica.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-elephant-burnt-lands-of-chobe.html?q=Elephant+burnt

    The blog itself
    http://thesmokeofafrica.blogspot.com/

    Reply
    • April 6, 2019 at 7:53 pm
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      Dear David,

      Welcome to the tribe.

      We need all the corroborating evidence (or statements) from as many people as we can get. So your contribution is truly welcome.

      I am just finishing a series of (4 or 5) major articles (for the Wild & Jag magazine) on the subject of “Managing Africa’s Elephants”. They cross all the “Ts” and dot all the “Is” on this subject – and they will appear on our website and no doubt, too, be discussed on our Facebook. Look out for them – and spread the information as far as you can.

      Look forward to hearing more from you.

      Kind regards

      Ron Thomson

      Reply
      • April 7, 2019 at 6:37 am
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        Someone goes hunting in 2013 and states that their is tree destruction and to you so desperate to find any reason to bring hunting and culling you call this evidence ?
        You can’t provide any actual census evidence of numbers only “ opinion “
        You can’t provide any evidence of the economic value of hunting and elephant dog meat versus photo tourism as you know there is no economic justification for hunting versus effective photo tourism

        But those who look for other solutions are in the wrong as you and your kind want hunting as that’s all you live for – the thrill of killing and always posing with the corpse —“when you only have a hammer everything is a nail “

        Reply
        • September 9, 2019 at 12:39 pm
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          In really don’t think I have to explain myself to Mr Goodman another time. He doesn’t listen to anything anybody has to say to him. He has all the answers to his own questions. S0 I shall save myself further frustration. RT.

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  • April 6, 2019 at 6:37 pm
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    Willian huard and Nigel Goodman, belittling and attempting to ridicule those who live their lives promoting the well being of wildlife – all wildlife, really does your case no good, whatsoever.
    It is a simple and undeniable truth that those who damage wildlife to the greatest extent are those who, sadly, support your stance.
    I would agree with you that there is much which is wrong, and again sadly, you are adding to the problems, rather than assisting with resolve.

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    • September 9, 2019 at 12:40 pm
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      WELL SAID ~ALEK. RON

      Reply
  • April 9, 2019 at 1:59 pm
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    Dear Mr Thomson

    I am not a hunter nor do I know anything about culling animals so that others may live. I understand you are passionate about your decisions to kill animals due to over population or if they are a danger to society in Africa, what I don’t understand is these animals have been roaming the planet before me and you learned to stand upright, cant we live side by side, is the planet not big enough for us all to exist even if the elephant population was to increase, wouldn’t natural selection take care of that for us? I really don’t expect you to answer such simple questions as you probably have better work to address, I just want to say if your heart lets you believe this action is necessary please consider making your claim louder so all the world can see and hear, without you and the killing we would all be lost. My hope is killing of men, animals and our environment are ceased because people like you can educate those who are unaware and maybe people like me can bring compassion back to your heart where killing is not the only solution.

    Thank you for your time

    Armando Carranza ( Common Sense World Management Enthusiast)

    Reply
    • August 30, 2019 at 8:48 pm
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      Dear Amando,

      Since time began one animal has killed (and subsisted upon) another in order to survive. There was NEVER a time when death did not occur. Death was the final answer to over-population so nothing has changed.

      The subject, however, is very large. If you want to know more about elephants and their management I would suggest you get yourself a copy of my book “ELEPHANT CONSERVATION – The Facts and The Fiction”. You will learn all about this subject from reading THAT book.

      Kind regards

      Ron Thomson

      Reply
  • April 10, 2019 at 3:21 pm
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    Mr Thomson

    I grew up in Zim as a youngster born in 1979. I think i first heard your name in an educational program at my junior school, Highlands, in Harare, Zimbabwe.

    We received a commendable basic education regarding wildlife and conservation in Southern Africa at school, and as a Zimbabwean i have always had the greatest respect for those like yourself who not only spend their lives in the service of such a worthy passion, but do it in a forthright and unapologetic manner.

    With this on mind, i thought i would write and offer a forthright (if gratuitous) perspective of my own.

    As a young adult, i moved to UK and spent a good few years adjusting to the different cultures here. In general, i learned that what traits we in Zim would have considered to be indicators of integrity (forthrightness, openness, black and white honesty) are what many in the UK might wrongly interpret as aggressive and offensive rudeness, and this misconstrual (in my experience) caused many communication breakdowns for me. In fact, partly due to the cultural differences i experienced, I went on to study psychology here. Communication formed a large part of that BSc curriculum.

    I mention all this, Mr Thomson because i recently came across your name vilified (Jane Dalton, The independent, 8 April 2019) as a murderous trophy hunter in the UK press and article comments by those who obviously had insufficient knowledge of ecology and Africa and were therefore predisposed to assume the worst, but who also probably interpreted your forthright style in a rather confrontational and alienating manner. This resonated strongly with my own experiences.

    I have had the pleasure since of reading some of your website articles in addition, and although i admit to having had quite a chuckle at some of your opinions of Westerners, if I may I would suggest that your written style nay be quite likely to cause a fair bit of indignation amongst those who might be better as allies? If they were only better educated and less offended somehow, without compromising your integrity and beliefs? (Of course there are other factors involved – some might say this offence is also due in part to the ‘snowflake’ generation, and the recent controversy around Cecil is still fresh.)

    While i empathise with your distaste for ignorant press articles and self declared wildlife “experts”, i’d like to make a suggestion from a psychological point of view to not only remedy these issues but use them for good.

    I wonder whether your persona, which is memorable, along with your apparent notoriety might potentially be made into a PR pivot, leveraged as a means of better educating the ignorant but interested animal lovers in the West. Many of this captive audience, once disabused of naive ideology might form both an additional lobby group and possibly a fund raising source for conservation.

    You may already be well aware of him, but Kevin Richardson’s interactive PR and filmography work are proving quite effective in raising awareness and support for lion and hyena in SA.

    I would also point you towards 2 ‘Bush craft’ personas here in the UK: 2 very different but memorable personalities who make very influential TV nature series: Ray Mears and Bear Grylls.

    ALL of the above are successful because apart from their skill sets and excellent production crews, they are exotic looking, extremely memorable, and obviously passionate and motivated to do good for the wilderness. I believe with the right team and a diplomatic producer you would very easily fit a niche alongside theirs and provide an invaluable service for African countries and wildlife while you do so.

    Mr Thomson, whether my comments provide valuable food for thought or not, thank you for all you have done for conservation in Africa. It is deeply, deeply appreciated by many.

    Reply
    • April 13, 2019 at 12:05 pm
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      LET ME ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS/REMARKS INSIDE THE TEXT:

      I grew up in Zim as a youngster born in 1979. I think i first heard your name in an educational program at my junior school, Highlands, in Harare, Zimbabwe.

      We received a commendable basic education regarding wildlife and conservation in Southern Africa at school, and as a Zimbabwean i have always had the greatest respect for those like yourself who not only spend their lives in the service of such a worthy passion, but do it in a forthright and unapologetic manner.

      With this on mind, i thought i would write and offer a forthright (if gratuitous) perspective of my own.

      As a young adult, i moved to UK and spent a good few years adjusting to the different cultures here. In general, i learned that what traits we in Zim would have considered to be indicators of integrity (forthrightness, openness, black and white honesty) are what many in the UK might wrongly interpret as aggressive and offensive rudeness, and this misconstrual (in my experience) caused many communication breakdowns for me. I GUESS, THEN, THAT MY CAUSE IS A PIPE DREAM. In fact, partly due to the cultural differences i experienced, I went on to study psychology here. Communication formed a large part of that BSc curriculum.

      I mention all this, Mr Thomson because i recently came across your name vilified (Jane Dalton, The independent, 8 April 2019) as a murderous trophy hunter (THEIR FIRST MISTAKE: I AM NOT AND NEVER HAVE BEEN A “TROPHY” HUNTER – SO IF THAT IS THEIR GRIPE THEY ARE BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE.)in the UK press and article comments by those who obviously had insufficient knowledge of ecology and Africa and were therefore predisposed to assume the worst, but who also probably interpreted your forthright style in a rather confrontational and alienating manner. This resonated strongly with my own experiences.

      I have had the pleasure since of reading some of your website articles in addition, and although i admit to having had quite a chuckle at some of your opinions of Westerners, if I may I would suggest that your written style nay be quite likely to cause a fair bit of indignation amongst those who might be better as allies? MY ALLIES? WHO ARE MY ALLIES? IF THEY ARE TRULY MY ALLIES THEY WOULD JUMP TO MY DEFENCE. WHERE ARE THEIR WORDS OF SUPPORT?” If they were only better educated and less offended somehow, without compromising your integrity and beliefs? (Of course there are other factors involved – some might say this offence is also due in part to the ‘snowflake’ generation, and the recent controversy around Cecil is still fresh.) THE “CECIL THE LION” STORY WAS A COMPLETE ANIMAL RIGHTS FABRICATION. JUST BEFORE HIS DEATH CECIL WAS DEFEATED BY A YOUNGER STRONGER MALE AND DESPOSED FROM HIS ONE-TIME HIGH RANKING POSITION IN THE HWANGE LION POPULATION. HE WAS THEN PUSHED FROM PILLAR TO POST INSIDE HWANGE NATIONAL PARK – BY ALL OTHER ADULT MALE LIONS – UNTIL HE WAS PUSHED OUT OF THE NATIONAL PARK ONTO PRIVATE LAND – TO GET AWAY FROM THE OTHER HARASSING MALES LIONS IN THE PARK – AND THERE HE WAS LEGALLY SHOT BY A HUNTER.

      While i empathise with your distaste for ignorant press articles and self declared wildlife “experts”, i’d like to make a suggestion from a psychological point of view to not only remedy these issues but use them for good. ALL I WANT TO DO IS TO “TELL THE TRUTH”. ALL THE OPPOSITION EVER WANT IS MY CAPITULATION TO THEIR WAY OF THINKING – AND THAT AINT GONNA HAPPEN.

      I wonder whether your persona, which is memorable, along with your apparent notoriety might potentially be made into a PR pivot, leveraged as a means of better educating the ignorant but interested animal lovers in the West. INTERESTED ANIMAL LOVERS IN THE WEST? WHO ARE THEY? GET THEM TO READ MY BOOKS ON THIS SUBJECT! I CANNOT JUST KEEP TELLING “LITTLE” STORIES IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA. THE ANSWERS TO ALL MY STATEMENTS ON WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT FACT ARE ALL CONTAINED IN MY BOOKS; AND ON THE TGA WEBSITE: http://WWW.MAHOHBOH.ORG. Many of this captive audience, once disabused of naive ideology might form both an additional lobby group and possibly a fund raising source for conservation. PRAY TELL ME JUST HOW I CAN GO ABOUT MANAGING THAT PERFORMANCE. MAY I SUGGEST THAT YOU JOIN THE TRUE GREEN ALLIANCE; AND THAT YOU ACT AS OUR SPOKES-PERSON TO GET SUCH A MIRACLE TO HAPPEN.

      You may already be well aware of him, but Kevin Richardson’s interactive PR and filmography work are proving quite effective in raising awareness and support for lion and hyena in SA. I DON’T KNOW KEVIN RICHARDSON. HOW IS HE “RAISING AWARENESS AND SUPPORT FOR LION AND HYENA IN SOUTH AFRICA?” WHAT IS KEVIN SAYING ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA’S LIONS AND HYENAS THAT “NEED” SUCH SUPPORT. I KNOW OF NOTHING ABOUT OUR LIONS AND HYENAS THAT REQUIRE SUCH ATTENTION? THE HYENAS ARE ALL O.K.. THE WILD LIONS ARE O.K. THE CAPTIVE-BRED LIONS ARE O.K. SO WHAT IS HE DOING FOR SOUTHERN AFRICA’S LIONS AND HYENAS?

      I would also point you towards 2 ‘Bush craft’ personas here in the UK: 2 very different but memorable personalities who make very influential TV nature series: Ray Mears and Bear Grylls. ASK THEM TO GET IT TOUCH WITH ME – AND LETS SEE IF WE CAN WORK TOGETHER.

      ALL of the above are successful because apart from their skill sets and excellent production crews, they are exotic looking, extremely memorable, and obviously passionate and motivated to do good for the wilderness. I believe with the right team and a diplomatic producer you would very easily fit a niche alongside theirs and provide an invaluable service for African countries and wildlife while you do so.

      ROHAN, I AM AN EXPERT IN THE MANAGEMENT OF WILDLIFE IN AFRICA. I HAVE A UNIVERSITY TRAINING IN SUCH MATTERS – AND 60 YEARS OF HANDS ON EXPERIENCE. I HAVE NO NEED TO “PROVE” MYSELF IN ANY WAY. WHAT TRAINING AND EXPERIENCE HAVE MESSRS RAY MEARS AND BEAR GRYLLS IN THIS FIELD? WHAT QUALIFIES THEM TO THE RANK OF “AFRICAN WILDLIFE EXPERTS”? I AM, HOWEVER, PREPARED TO CONSIDER WORKING “WITH” THEM TO PRODUCE AUTHETIC “WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT” (NATURE CONSERVATION)FILMS. INDEED, I HAVE HUNDREDS OF WILDLIFE STORIES THAT I AM JUST ACHING TO TELL THE WHOLE WORLD. USING YOUR INFLUENCE, GET US TOGETHER AND LETS START ‘CHANGING THE WORLD’ THE WAY YOU SUGGEST. Y0U MAY BE RIGHT. MAYBE WITH THEIR ‘PRODUCTION’ EXPERTISE AND MY WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT UNDERSTANDING, MAYBE WE CAN DO SOMETHING ‘SPECIAL”. I AM PREPARED TO GIVE IT A TRY. BUT YOU MUST SET IT UP!

      Mr Thomson, whether my comments provide valuable food for thought or not, thank you for all you have done for conservation in Africa. It is deeply, deeply appreciated by many.

      ROHAN, ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. PRODUCE SOMETHING WORTHWHILE IN THIS DIRECTION AND WE MIGHT TALK AGAIN!

      Ron Thomson

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  • May 23, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Good day Mr Thomson

    Thank you for this forum.I’m busy to become a member of the TGA.
    We have a farm, on the Southern side of the Delta between Gumare and Nokaneng, and I can tell you that almost on a daily basis you can see the destruction of the resident elephant herds in the area.

    The ban of the NO ELEPHANT HUNTING, is good news. Now we’re in the right direction!

    To all the critics, visit the Okavango Delta, or anywhere in Ngamiland, and see for yourself

    Mr Thomson, keep up the good work!!!

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    • May 27, 2019 at 8:38 am
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      Dear Coenie,
      Those of us who understand wildlife management KNOW that the lifting of the hunting ban in Botswana and the (hopeful) implementation of an elephant population reduction scheme are the RIGHT THINGS to do. We need people like you in the TGA and hope that you will find your membership useful. Welcome aboard. NOW the TGA is going to have to convince everybody in the Western World (and local) – who has been led astray by the animal rightists propaganda – to join hands with us, too. You can help. The TGA is about to embark on a series of small (and large) films and we are looking for photographic and You Tube material to help us get the message across. So may I encourage you to send us photographs and videos of elephants damaging their habitats, and or damaged elephant habitat; of baobabs in tatters; and of woodlands demolished. Nothing will be too much. Everything would be great.
      Things are a changing. I think the TGA has been responsible for a lot of this change. So you are VERTY welcome to join our tribe!
      Kind regards
      Ron

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  • June 17, 2019 at 8:59 pm
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    CODE RED or CODE GREEN…. WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE?

    This is a very simplistic understanding of what my hunting experiences – 50 years ago – were all about. I never hunted for sport. I never hunted for trophies. I hunted for management reasons and I believe that Ms.Joanne White would better demonstrate her intelligence (or otherwise) by asking the questions: What is the difference between trophy hunting?; sport hunting?; meat hunting?; and hunting for management reasons? AND… why is ‘management hunting’ necessary? And how does it provide better living conditions for Africa’s elephants? And what is the best management solution to make sure elephants move safely – together with mankind – into posterity? There are multiple facets to the answers to all these questions, and each facet needs to be understood by anyone and everyone wanting to participate in the elephant management debate – or any other wildlife management debate.

    Finding answers to these questions will allow Ms White, and people like her, to understand much better the whole conundrum called ‘wildlife management’.

    People who don’t want to know the answers to these questions are simply ignoramuses. They don’t deserve any kind of attention; and they should be ostracised by society at large. I categorise such people “CODE RED” which, simply put, lets everybody know that these kinds of people do not deserve to be taken seriously in any wildlife management debate; and to allow them access to the wildlife debate just wastes everybody’s valuable time and energy. Inviting dogmatic and fanatical animal rightists – like Ms Joanne White – to participate in the wildlife debate is like asking convicted paedophiles and rapists to make a positive contribution to a conference that is looking for answers to the abuse against women and children.

    I am not repentant AT ALL for my vast ‘elephant hunting-management’ experiences – as many people think I should be; because I know, unequivocally, that my contribution to the construction of responsible and scientifically determined elephant management programmes (over the last 60 years) is infinitely more positive and more significant than any RED CODED person is ever likely to achieve. I categorise myself as being a GREEN CODED person… as someone who makes a positive contribution to the “Best Practice Management” of elephants everywhere (and other wildlife, too).

    Nevertheless, in its proper place, I understand and support the positive contributions that trophy hunting, sport hunting, and meat hunting makes to the management of wildlife, too. But I am not a regular one of any of these kinds of hunters – except I have hunted (very rarely) for meat for time to time. And I will do so again given the opportunity. So, let’s stick to the ball we know – and kick the right one to get our answers.

    So, Ms White do you want to be coded RED or GREEN? Please let us all know where you stand because there are lots of people eager to know just who the good wildlife guys are, and who the bad wildlife guys are, in our society! Which one are YOU?

    Ron Thomson. CEO – The True Green Alliance.

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  • June 19, 2019 at 2:31 pm
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    Hello Joanne White. Here is another reply from our president.
    This ignoramus brands Ron Thomson as a “psycopath”. Does she know what the word means..?

    Thomson has spent his life in the service of National Parks, studying and writing about best wildlife management practices, caring for the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainability of Africa’s last natural and wild places. IN PRACTICE.

    Please will that armchair critic inform the world what she has done for practical wildlife and biodiversity conservation and management and the sustainability of Africa’s natural world.
    John Rance. President of the TGA

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    • June 20, 2019 at 8:41 am
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      The problem is simple, the solutions are admittedly complex, but our human history contains the story, from the start to the beginning of the end, the answers are there if you care to look. Try addressing the complex instead of just resorting to the over-used, historically disastrous, short-term lethal answer. Mammoths and mastodons roamed the world until humans appeared in new (to them) pristine environments with their honed weapons…..and where the other animals would have had no experience of this strange new animal……you and your president are advocating exactly the same outcome, but with ultra modern technologies and no gained long term intelligence…..humans, all humans, every single one of us in every country are guilty and responsible, in one way or another, historically and currently…..we have only one World, and it has never been as fragile as it currently is, Africa holds the key to our and wild species continued existence, please help her to see that in the long term. Your instigated lethal solutions are always, ALWAYS wrong and destructive, and utterly wasteful from the perspective of natural cycles.

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      • June 22, 2019 at 11:49 am
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        What a load of utter balderdash. RT

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  • June 20, 2019 at 7:32 am
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    Elephants have no need or concept of national borders, for ions they have naturally maintained the fragile environments that support them. Natural population control has worked for every species of plant and animal in a given ecosystem throughout evolution until human populations began to create permanent settlements around 12,000 years ago. Humans are 100% the problem not elephants. Westerners have taken/(returned) our modern human problems to Africa, often or mostly in well meaning ways, but nonetheless disastrously for Africa’s incredible wildlife, and ultimately for the future of all, including humans.
    Elephants will seemingly decimate a particular region where their numbers exceed carrying capacity and be forced to migrate, at which time many will perish through hunger and exhaustion so that only the strong survive, THAT is natural selection, especially in a species where natural predation is not that frequent. Concentrate on finding ways to prevent elephants from entering human habitation and fields and grazing and keep humans within them. Let natural selection happen unheeded and a natural balance will re establish itself, as will the plant life, with renewed vigor, in the same way as per the animals. Weak and diseased trees use up too much water and provide little nutrition, fresh new growth is waiting to emerge when conditions allow. Nature knows, nature is the mother of all, and has ALL the answers, regrettably she has lost control of our selfish ignorant greedy species.
    Capitalism is the problem here, you see elephants as a commodity to be exploited for human benefit not left to, in human terms be ‘wasted’, but where ‘wasted’ doesn’t exist in a natural environment/ecosystem, expired elephant carcasses are a vital part of the regeneration process that evolution created to maintain a balance.
    You talk like any other animal farmer, of the most effective ways to exploit other animals on our planet to benefit the only viral mammal species that exists here. So bollocks to your reasonings, educate humans on our evolutionary history (a blindly disastrous blink in universal time) and our tragically empty projected future. STOP THE KILLING

    96% of all mammals on Earth are now either human or enslaved domesticated other animals…..that leaves 4% wildlife. African countries can save their wild, even pristine ecosystems if they control the human populations, THAT is the duty of our enlightened human dynasty, not more capitalist exploitation, do the right thing or the cradle of our birth will ironically become our symbolic tomb……

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    • June 23, 2019 at 8:15 pm
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      How unenlightened can any so-called sentient being be?

      The TGA does not have the time to waste on people like this author. RT

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    • September 9, 2019 at 12:33 pm
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      NO COMMENT. NONW ARE SO DEAF AS THOSE WHO WILL NOT HEAR! RT

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  • July 9, 2019 at 10:13 am
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    So the solution to global warming (hence the advancing dry season) is to kill elephants? I am a little confused here; this seems to be biased journalism.

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    • July 11, 2019 at 3:32 pm
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      Biased journalism….??? Or is this the response of someone who does not understand the principles and practices of wildlife management?
      Elephant management has nothing to do with so-called global warming. “Culling” is the action man takes to reduce the numbers of an elephant population, every year, by the equivalent of its annual increment – for the purpose of keeping the elephant population numbers stable. Keeping elephant population numbers consistently below the carrying capacity of the elephants’ habitat is critically important: (1) to the health of the habitat; (2) to the health of the elephant population; and (3) to the maintenance of the sanctuary’s all important biological diversity. How can this possibly be construed as being “biased journalism?”
      RT

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    • September 9, 2019 at 12:09 pm
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      WE’VE GOT OUR WIRES CROSSED HERE. A DRY SEASON IS A NATURAL ANNUAL PHENOMENON. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SO-CALLED GLOBAL WARMING. MANAGING WILDLIFE (including elephants) involves maintaining the soil, plants and animals in a state of balance. When there are too many of any kind of animal (elephants or rabbits)they will eat all the vegetation and destroy the habitat. The way to handle this kind of situation is to reduce the numbers of delinquent animals. Reduce the animals a level that the plants can sustainably support….. to re-establish the balance that is required. HOPE THIS HELPS YOU TO UNDERSTAND. KIND REGARDS, RON THOMSON.

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      • September 9, 2019 at 6:14 pm
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        The ecology has to be sustained,Too much of any animal will do more harm than the sentiment of keeping many animals. Botswana will soon be a desert if elephants are not controlled.it is just common sense, Some of the NGOs have too much to answer to the people of the South, Countries must decide n themselves and conserve their ecology in good shape,

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        • September 10, 2019 at 10:56 am
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          Hello Elizabeth,

          You have the exact right understanding and mentality to project science-based wildlife management philosophy in its proper context. Especially elephant management. Keep at it. Don’t slacken the pace. We need to “keep at it”. The TGA needs your continued support in this war against the animal rightists. AFRICA needs you. Africa’s people needs your support; and so does Africa’s wildlife.

          WELL DONE!

          Ron Thomson

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  • July 11, 2019 at 10:15 pm
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    Ron I personally love your perspectives, overcrowding of any species is suicidal, and God gave us the mentality to manage and to enhance the quality of life of the species. even overcrowded trees get pruned to improve the output quality Elephant is revered in Africa as totem animal for many tribes but we agree we need to cull to maintain the species less it dies from lack of food from overrun land use activities .the SDGs tells it all. Pharmaceuticals from developed countries thrive on birth control pills. yet they shout about sustainable use of animals.KEEP THE GOOD WORK going Ron.

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    • September 9, 2019 at 11:56 am
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      Well said Elizabeth. You understand the issues involved. Ron

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