Debate between Ron Thomson and Peter Mills
PM: Dear Ron,
I don’t think I totally agree with your response to Grant who, I thought, posed a very valid question. I don’t know what Grant’s wildlife management background is but he does propose an option, just leave it alone.
RT: Have a look at what is left of the Satara Top Canopy Tree Study area when the elephants were left to do what THEY wanted to do.
PM: There will of course be ecological consequences in the composition, structure and function of the system will change, but there will still be a functional system.
RT: No there wont – not after Kruger becomes a desert! The journey will them be all ONE WAY – DOWN HILL ALL THE WAY! AND you have to remember that it is SANPark’s wildlife management duty to MAINTAIN SPECIES DIVERSITY.
PM: Maybe not the way you would like to see it, but that’s your subjective perspective of what the Kruger should look like.
RT: THAT IS NOT TRUE. My personal desires with regard to what Kruger should look like has NOTHING to do with the wildlife management realities of Kruger National Park. Kruger has a climax ecosystem which supports a specific species spectrum of plants and animals. Recreating that climax ecosystem, and its multiple diverse habitats, and maintaining it (them), and returning the species spectrum (plants and animals) to that sustainable and optimum/climax state, is what we should all be aiming at. And THAT is NOT a personal preference factor at all.
PM: Even with 3000 elephants the Kruger, by its mere fenced and restricted nature, will change over time anyway. If Kruger were managed properly the habitats and species spectrum would stabilize – within a natural range (yes) – but it would stabilize within an acceptable ‘wavy’ range – As ecologists, we must not fall into the old “preservationist” trap.
RT: WHAT TRAP?
PM: We work in a complex dynamic environment for which we barely have definite answers. Soule’ did not call conservation biology a “crisis” discipline for nothing. Further, in your video, you claim a carrying capacity of 3000 elephants in Kruger.
RT: No I do not. I stated that the elephant carrying capacity in 1955 (when the habitats were still relatively healthy) was 3500 (+/- 500)
PM: How do you get to such a finite
PM: figure when scientists who are actively working on it, cannot, and not through incompetence
PM: reach a carrying capacity figure?
RT: I did not reach a “FINITE” figure at all. And that carrying capacity figure (3500 +/- 500) will decline – at the same rate that the elephants are destroying their own habitat. AND you ask: How can I make such claims when I am not “on site” and actually engaged in the problem? (I have been ‘engaged’ in this problem for over 60 years!) Look at “THE FACTS” (the truth) as I have explained them in the documentary. You will see that ‘the facts’ are not mine. They are the facts derived from the scientific workings of the SANPark’s scientists at Kruger. It was THEY who determined the “FACTUAL” figures. I merely took all those figures and created a scientific equation around them. So, “the facts” and the “truths” that I quote are not at all based upon my ‘observations’.
PM: How can you make such claims when you are not on-site actively engaging with the problem but seemingly basing your “facts” and “truths” on observation?
RT: So, if you wish to criticize my presentation – which I really don’t mind – because I would like “the truth” to emerge from this debate – but please pick me up when I fall down. You see, “MY FACTS” and “MY TRUTHS” are not mine at all. All the work and tabulations were actually determined and carried out by the Skukuza scientists.
May I suggest that you reconstruct the scientists figures in your own way and see if you don’t come to the same conclusion that I HAVE COME TO? For 27 years (1967 to 1994) the scientists of Kruger culled the park’s elephant herds down to 7000 every year. They carried out autopsies on every carcass; and they determined that every year for that entire period the elephant population’s annual incremental rate was 7.5 % (Dr Ian White et al) – and STILL periodically (1965; 1967; 1994; 1981 and 1994) the Satara Top Canopy Trees declined in number (from 13, to 9; to 6; to;3; to 1.5 and, finally to zero. THIS should tell even the most inept student that 7000 elephants (the culling target) was far above the park’s elephant carrying capacity. Then look at my reasoning (explained fully in the film) how I used these figures to determine the 1955 elephant carrying capacity figure as I did. Please do your homework – and THEN let me know your conclusions.
Disingenuous or not, the people responsible for the current Kruger debacle are the SANpark’;s wildlife managers who were responsible for allowing the elephant population to grow beyond the sustainable elephant carrying capacity of the Kruger habitats. Who else could it be?
I hope this has steered you in the right direction.