Kruger Park’s biological diversity is in serious trouble! Part 6.

Elephant Management in Kruger National Park (6)

Here we are (Figure 4) back to the original sigmoid-curve graph that depicts the simple pattern of an elephant population’s growth from nought to 100 percent. Hundred percent reflects the maximum number of elephants that the game reserve’s habitat can sustainably support. It is, in fact, the game reserve’s ultimate elephant carrying capacity. If the elephants are kept (by active management/culling) at this 100 percent level, they will not cause permanent damage to the habitats. This level is also sometimes referred to as the maximum SAFE “saturation” point.

Using the percentage gauge – instead of numbers – allows us to apply these kinds of management principles to any elephant population anywhere in Africa.

We have added to this graph, the same pale-green pattern that we used in a previous graph, to depict the population’s most productive period of population growth. This was the 5th decade when – although the population is now large and expanding rapidly – the habitat’s essential resources (food, water, shelter and lebensraum) are not limiting. There is enough of everything to go round! So throughout this period, the population reproduces at the maximum rate possible.

If we had a mind to reduce this population (which is at its optimum number) by 50 percent – for whatever reason – it would, actually, do the population no harm at all. On the graph, this 50 percent reduction is marked with a very bold black arrow facing directly downwards; and the point of the arrow demarcates exactly where the population will stand, numerically, AFTER the population reduction is complete.

There is another (narrower) black arrow pointing to the left. You will see from the inscriptions on the graph that it indicates that that is where the remnant population will find itself. It places what is left of the old population right into the middle of its most productive period of population growth. With half the population now gone, the remaining half will have twice as much of the available habitat resources that it needs (food, water, shelter and lebensraum) to quickly restart the process of recovering its lost numbers. And in another decade or two it will start to lose animals to emigration (dispersals) and to premature deaths (caused by poor nutrition/lack of food). But for the next several years the elephants will be wallowing in a state of plenty.

I have conducted this exercise to impress upon you that elephants are very resilient creatures; and that their reaction to even a drastic 50 percent population reduction, is simply to bounce back to their former numbers.

We have now covered all our bases and, in the next blog (Number 7), I can start to discuss how we need to address ourselves to the management of excessive elephant populations – generally – knowing that you will now understand my rationale.

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:

Ron Thomson has 217 posts and counting. See all posts by Ron Thomson

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