Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 12:06 UK

SA elephants can be culled again

An elephant wanders in Tembe Elephant Park in the Northern KwaZulu Natal province in Jan 2007
The authorities say the cull is a last resort

South Africa has lifted a moratorium on elephant culling to combat a surge in population numbers.

The South African government halted the killing of elephants in 1995 but since then numbers have more than doubled.

The government says it is authorising the cull as a last resort and that culling will only be acceptable under strict conditions.

The move comes despite an outcry from animal rights activists who say entire family groups would be slaughtered.

But South African wildlife journalist Tim Neary told the BBC killing whole herds was the best way of handling culling.

The fact remains that we do have a shrinking landscape and an increasing elephant herd
Wildlife journalist Tim Neary

In the past, when older elephants were killed, he said, the younger ones went on to develop "aberrant behaviour in a number of reserves where there wasn't the total family structure", he said.

Not having the large bulls also led to problems in the interaction between rhinos and elephants.


South Africa lifts its culling ban

South African National Parks (SANParks), which manages the country's parks, and called for the government to allow the culling, said that while the moratorium would be lifted there were no immediate plans to implement a cull.

Other preferred options include the translocation of elephants and contraception.

Mr Neary says, however, that these are costly solutions.

"The sterilisation of an elephant is not easy as the male's testes are internal," he told the BBC's World Today programme.

He said a vasectomy operation in the bush can take up to four hours and the animal has be supported in a standing position the whole time.

For translocation, he said, whole herds would have to be moved vast distances in aeroplane.

"In conservation funding is tremendously hard to get hold of... [and] the fact remains that we do have a shrinking landscape and an increasing elephant herd."

Animal rights campaigners have written to the South African government demanding that culling be removed from the guidelines for elephant management.

They say there is no scientific evidence for culling and the lifting of the moratorium has a commercial dimension.


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