Cape Times (Cape Town, South Africa)  [Printer-friendly version]
November 29, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: In South Africa, the government says the
precautionary principle requires killing 6000 elephants that are
considered harmful to the local environment. Have all reasonable
alternatives been considered?]

By Anel Powell

While anti-culling lobbyists on Monday launched a vehement attack on a
"trigger-happy" South African National Parks (SANParks) for their
proposal to cull at least 6,000 elephants in the Kruger National Park,
government representatives urged groups to concentrate on the facts,
not the emotions.

Speaking after a series of presentations by the Elephants Alive
Coalition, JP Louw, head of communication for the environment and
tourism department, said: "We need an African solution for what is
essentially an African problem."

Louw revealed that the closed meeting was "quite emotional" as
role players from both sides of the debate presented their case to the

According to SANParks, there are more than 12,000 elephants roaming
the Kruger Park. This overpopulation is considered a threat to the
area's biodiversity, especially as the number is expected to rise to
34,000 by 2020. Culling has been offered as a possible solution.

Elephants Alive called for "more compassionate solutions" to Kruger's
elephant problem, such as contraception and the erection of corridors
to control elephant movement.

The coalition criticised SANParks' lack of consultation, their refusal
to look at "compelling scientific data" opposing culling and their
misinterpretation of environmental law.

Lawyer David Bilchitz said the precautionary principle contained in
the Environment and Development declaration states that where there
are threats of serious damage, "lack of scientific certainty shall not
be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental

He said SANParks was interpreting the clause to their advantage,
without admitting that the culling could also affect the biodiversity
of the park and cause serious damage.

If SANParks persisted in citing the clause as justification for
culling, Bilchitz said opposition groups would challenge them, and the
government, in court.

Keith Lindsay, scientific adviser for Care for the Wild International,
said SANParks' estimate of 6,000 elephants that should be culled was
not based on scientific data.

Although SANParks has not ruled out the sale of tusks, meat and hides
from culled elephants, the coalition said this would only add R4-
million to the coffers. Meanwhile, more than R72-billion was
contributed to the national economy in 2002 by tourism.

"People come to South Africa to see the elephants."

Barbara Maas, of Care for the Wild, said of Monday's ministerial
meeting: "We hope there will be ongoing dialogue as there is so much
at stake, economically and ethically."

Will Travis, of UK-based Born Free, said: "He (Van Schalkwyk) could be
the minister that goes down in history as the culling minister, or he
could be remembered for being the one who looked at alternatives."

Louw said: "We heard a number of presentations and the one positive is
that everyone is committed to finding a solution."

This article was originally published on page 6 of Cape Times on
November 29, 2005

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