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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 15:28 GMT
'No reason' to cull SA elephants
African elephant
Too many elephants can wreak havoc on the environment
Leading South African scientists have advised the government against culling elephants, saying there is no reason to lift a 10-year ban.

The government has been considering an end to the ban, amid fears that a rapid increase in the elephant population is threatening the ecological balance.

But a panel of 10 experts told the environment minister it was not clear the elephant population was too large.

They said that mass culling was in any case not a perfect solution.

Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk met the panel in an attempt to resolve what has become an emotive issue in South Africa.

'Lack of evidence'

"The scientists said that there was not yet sufficient compelling evidence to take action at a large scale to reduce the elephant population," environment ministry spokesman JP Louw said.

"They said there was not sufficient evidence to say contraception would work or translocation would work. There is not sufficient evidence about the impact of culling."

Some 13,000 elephants currently roam in the Kruger National Park, South Africa's premier wildlife reserve.

This is nearly double the 7,000 that was considered the optimum number during South Africa's apartheid years, when culling took place regularly.

South Africa's National Parks Service has argued that large numbers of elephants are destroying natural habitats and threatening other wildlife in the park, as well as endangering communities and farmland in areas bordering on the park.

Those opposed to the culling of elephants have argued that the overpopulation problem could be solved by transporting animals to areas where they are scarce, or by administering contraception.

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