I have to say that your comment is one of the finest examples of modern theoretical eco-myopia that I have seen in some time. It perfectly encapsulates the reason why South Africa’s breathtaking bio-diversity (and probably the whole of its wildlife industry) is doomed in the long term unless someone takes responsibility and gets a grip.
It is not necessary to address all your points – you clearly do not (or won’t) understand much of what Ron has written, so repeating it all would be futile.
On the question of capacity, however – for a start, one measures elephant carrying capacity by watching what they do to their environment. Is that so difficult?
However, if you start with a belief that elephant numbers mustn’t be managed, you end up nit-picking for granules of supporting evidence – you observe that busy “Crocodile Bridge was barren in the 60’s” but ignore that elephants have, in the ensuing 60 years, done to the whole damn park what a localised tourist pinch-point did back then. You’ve got the cart in front of the horse.
Ron is no civilian observer or ivory-tower theoreticist.
What he writes is based on sound scientific ecology, factual reality and a lifetime in practical conservation and field managing large parks – and management is the important concept here.
Most of those who you glorify as “on site, actively engaging” actually do what they are told. If told to do nothing, they do nothing. Academic tenure has the same limitation.
You say one “should not fall into the preservationist trap”, but that is precisely where you nest – you want to throw a fence around Kruger and “preserve” it instead of actively managing it for the benefit of as much diversity as possible.
In effect, you spend your time looking for interesting sheet music to play while the Kruger Titanic sinks. You should have listened when Ron shouted “Look out! Bloody great iceberg of elephants ahead”, not telling him he should listen to your soothing popular music.
You identified the REAL elephant in the room here – your sensitivity to the “complex socio-political context”. A pox on your socio-political context, Sir.
Public opinion (and thus every gutless, populist politician) is entirely subjective, about peoples’ own personal sensitivities and sentiments – they are not based on the objective needs of elephants, the environment or bio-diversity.
The natural world couldn’t give a monkey’s about bureaucracy or human public opinion, so it is irrelevant here. Why? Because public opinion is skewed by Disney, sanitised TV and the anthropomorphic fiction of animal rights charlatans worldwide – hardly the best foundation for scientific decisions, yet you admit it as the “context” in which your theories reside. From a scientific point of view, it is foundation of quicksand.
Bio-diversity? – how quaint and old-fashioned. By pandering to public opinion rather than scientific rigour, modern “conservation” paints itself into a corner – when elephants become sacred, you’re left with your quandary – “what do you do” when there are 25,000 too many?
As Ron warns, without management, you will sit and watch them turn the Kruger into a dusty but popular (and profitable) elephant park. It will be a place where the public will be able to watch elephants “in the real Africa” but then go back to camp to watch everything else on virtual reality headsets.
That’s what happens when management become a jelly-head politicised or sentimental collective – there’s no bloody leadership, and leadership, based on scientific fact, is really what is needed.
John Nash grew up in West Cornwall and was a £10 pom to Johannesburg in the early 1960’s. He started well in construction project management, mainly high rise buildings but it wasn’t really Africa, so he went bush, prospecting and trading around the murkier bits of the bottom half of the continent. Now retired back in Cornwall among all the other evil old pirates. His interests are still sustainable resources, wildlife management and the utilitarian needs of rural Africa.