The Great Elephant Census (2016) provides insufficient information to properly gauge the true status of Africa’s elephant populations. The GEC figures presented, record the numbers of elephants counted across the length and breadth of Africa; but they omit vital information about the elephant carrying capacities (ECC) of the habitats that support them. And this is a very serious exclusion.
Elephant carrying capacity reflects the maximum number of elephants that a habitat can carry without them causing permanent damage to the vegetation; and the ECC – relative to the numbers of elephant that are actually being carried – determines whether or not the sanctuary’s biological diversity is being maintained or destroyed. Furthermore, if there are too many elephants their numbers will be unsustainable; the elephants will destroy their own habitat – and the vital habitats of every other species of wild animal that share the game reserve with them; biological diversity losses will occur; and the game reserve will end up becoming a desert.
Maintaining biodiversity is the single most important wildlife management objective of any national park! It supersedes, for example, any individual consideration for any other organism – including elephants. And there is ample evidence to support the view that every elephant population south of the Zambezi and Cunene rivers in southern Africa, is grossly excessive (far too many for the habitats to support). It is vital, therefore, that southern African society grasps this prickly nettle and resolves this problem before any more of our biological diversity is damaged.
Just counting elephants, therefore, is not the be-all and end-all of elephant management – or national park management (which go hand-in-hand) – in Africa. There is a whole lot more to “best practice” elephant management than simply counting legs and dividing by four.