KNP’s reply after having been told in an article by Maroela Media as requested by their readers, that KNP’s current management system caused an over population of elephants resulting in damaging the park’s habitat.
They say there are lots of views floating around re this at present. In the past culling of elephants took place keeping the numbers on 7 000, but at present they are following a more progressive management method resulting in elephant numbers having increased to more than 30 000. This is also partly due to pressure the park got from green activists who regarded culling of elephants as being not acceptable.
Maroela Media earlier also reported that WRSA (Wildlife Ranching SA – Deon Furstenburg / Gerhard Heyneke) asked that KNP to start culling elephants again due to the damage caused to the park’s habitat by the over populated elephant numbers.
According to the park’s management, the current numbers of elephants can not be compared with that of previous years, simply because the area in which the elephants can move around, is much bigger. The park acknowledges that there definitely had been a change in biodiversity as a result of the higher number of elephants, but management don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.
“Natural systems (ecosystems?), together with the people living in them, are changing already for centuries. When the Sabie-gamereserve were established in 1898, before the KNP came about, there were no elephants and lots of riverrine bushes”, says Dr Sam Ferreira, the KNP’s specialist scientist on large mammals.
He says 300 years ago, before ivory hunters almost killed all elephants, there must have been large numbers of elephants and only a few places with beautiful trees where people stayed and kept the elephants out.
“If your reference is the tree density of 100 years ago, then it looks as if change or biodiversity is endangered. If your reference is 200 years ago instead, then the change rather looks like a recovery of the ecosystem.”
Danie Pienaar, SANPARK’s chief of conservation services, working in KNP since 1988, say the areas around the park being available and conservation friendly, increased since the 1990’s quite a lot and offers a much larger area where a lot more elephants can be kept.
“The over-border conservation areas stretching deep into Mocambic and Zimbabwe, mostly have no fences and the fences of a lot of private reserves on the park’s Western border have also been dropped.”
Ferreira says elephants react on different areas and climates and can move easier around in large areas than other mammals, should they not like a specific local area.
According to him is Sanpark’s aim not to regulate elephant numbers, but rather manage impacts on a localized scale. “Elephants have in many cases unacceptable results for certain elements of biodiversity on a localized scale, but because they can move around very easily in large numbers, it is difficult and inappropriate to manage these impacts.”
“For example, in 2017 the park had between 21 047 and 23 717 elephants. In 2020 there were between 31 085 and 31 976, but in 2021 there were between 26 401 and 29 584. Movement patterns dominate the change in numbers and not birth and death patterns.”
He reckons there are definite opportunities whereby natural processes that affects elephants, can also take place. In certain areas and cases it may result in population control. ( Can you believe that???)
Ferreira admits that not everybody agrees with their way of management, but all are worried and concerned about what elephants can do to an area.
The solution to this, says Ferreira, is actually not as easy as how many elephants are there and what impact they have on the landscape. “It is rather about more complex mechanisms like the impact the elephants have on a localized scale, how long they stay in a specific area and what do they do there. The scientific approach we follow, tries to manage all these mechanisms.
Ron Thomson – CEO True Green Alliance