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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 15:22 GMT
S Africa considers elephant culls
Silhouette of an African elephant
S Africa's elephant conservation has been too successful, some argue
South Africa is considering limited culls to help manage the country's booming elephant population.

Other measures such as contraception, moving herds to other areas and expanding parks are also being considered to manage growing numbers.

South Africa's elephant population has doubled to around 17,000 since culling was stopped in 1995.

The environment minister said higher elephant numbers risked destroying the biodiversity of South Africa's parks.

If left unchecked, South Africa's elephant population is expected to double again to about 34,000 by 2020.

Three-quarters of the elephants live in Kruger National Park, a favourite with visitors who come to see the "big five" animals: elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalo.

'Cruel culling'

Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk outlined a series of measures his department is considering to balance "the needs of humankind and the needs of nature".

"Some, such as culling and contraception I would have personally preferred not to consider," he said at Addo elephant park in Eastern Cape province.

"But I am persuaded that all these options have a potential role to play under different circumstances."

He said most of South Africa's land put aside for animal conservation was fenced and surrounded by land developed by people and elephant overcrowding was now a risk.

The government is allowing two months for environmental groups and conservationists to comment on the proposals.

Conservationists argue culling is cruel because it involves killing entire family groups.

Others argue that overall biodiversity should take priority.

A single elephant devours hundreds of kilos of vegetation a day, sometimes putting rare plant species at risk.

Their voracious appetites may also put them in competition with other big animals like the endangered black rhino.

Aerial footage of elephants in a national park

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