Elephant Populations – Preservation, Conservation & Critical Management

A habitat’s elephant “carrying capacity” is the number of elephants that the habitat can sustainably carry without causing irreparable damage to the habitat’s vegetation.




















This is a critical parameter because it determines whether or not the number of elephants in a game reserve qualifies the population as being UNSAFE, SAFE or EXCESSIVE; and those classifications prescribe just what kind of management strategy should be applied.

  • An UNSAFE elephant population is one whose numbers are well below the elephant carrying capacity of its habitat and whose numbers are low and declining; which means the population will face extinction if man does not intervene with an appropriate management action.  Such populations need to be “protected from all harm” – which action describes PRESERVATION MANAGEMENT. And the purpose of preservation management is to make an UNSAFE population SAFE.
  • A SAFE elephant population is one that is numerically strong and is breeding well, but whose numbers do not exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat.  Such populations should be culled and/or hunted annually to remove each year’s annual increment; and so to keep the population number stable. This requires the application of CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT (or sustainable use management) to make sure that SAFE populations do not become EXCESSIVE.
  • EXCESSIVE elephant populations are ones that exist in numbers that are bigger than their habitat’s sustainable elephant carrying capacity.  They breed well and have lots of babies but they grossly over-eat and damage the vegetation in their habitats – which are, consequently, constantly degrading.  They also cause massive biological diversity losses. The CRITICAL MANAGEMENT strategy that should be applied to EXCESSIVE elephant populations is drastic population reduction.  As a FIRST management phase they should be reduced in number by no less than 50 percent.

Ron Thomson

I am NOT a ‘trophy hunter’ - and never have been. I am not involved in the trophy hunting safari business. I am also not a game rancher. But I have ‘administratively controlled’ professional hunters and safari outfitters in my capacity as a government game warden. I am an 80 year old ex-game warden with 60 years of continuous experience in hands-on wildlife management, and national park management, in Africa (1959 to 2019). In breakdown, I have 24 years experience in the management of national parks in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe - and in the management of the wild animal populations that lived inside those national parks; one year as the Chief Nature Conservation of the Ciskei in South Africa; three years as Director of the Bophuthatswana National Parks Board in South Africa; and I worked for three years as a professional hunter in the South African Great Karoo (taking foreign hunters on quests for plains game trophies). I discovered, however, that professional hunting was not my forte. I worked as an investigative wildlife journalist for 30 years in South Africa. I have written fifteen books and hundreds of magazine articles on the subject of wildlife management and big game hunting in Africa. Five of my books are university-level text books on wildlife management. I am a university-trained ecologist; was a member of the Institute of Biology (London) for 20 years; and was a registered chartered biologist for the European Union for 20 years. I have VAST experience in the “management hunting” of elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and hippos (as part of my official national park work in the control of problem animals); and I pioneered the capture of black rhino in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley (1964 - 1970). My university thesis was entitled: “The Factors Affecting the Survival and Distribution of Black Rhinos in Rhodesia”. Look at my personal website if you want any further details about my experience: www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za.

Ron Thomson has 271 posts and counting. See all posts by Ron Thomson

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