Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 June 2019
SOUTH AFRICA and its people are blessed with diverse and thriving wildlife. We are also a developing economy with a growing population. From these facts emerges the particular situation of having most of our protected areas surrounded by land that has been transformed, to a greater or lesser extent, by human development. Large mammals, such as elephants, no longer roam the entire landscape, and their populations are no longer completely governed by the laws of nature. Protecting elephants and the ecological systems in which they exist in a practical and sustainable way that balances the needs of humans, elephants and the environment is a challenge to which I am committed.
This Assessment was undertaken to reduce the degree of scientific uncertainty associated with decisions that must be made very soon and in the medium-to-long term. It helps to evaluate the costs and benefits associated with each choice, both in economic and ecological terms, and clarifies the legal framework within which they must be made. Collectively the chapters in this report reveal the many successes our country's experts, in collaboration with their peers in neighbouring countries and abroad, have achieved in understanding elephants and their needs, in fields as diverse as veterinary science, ecology, animal behaviour, population and resource modelling. Importantly, the Assessment exposes important gaps in our understanding and thus outlines necessary future avenues of research. This Assessment represents a key milestone in an ongoing Elephant Research Programme.
Science does not provide all the information required to resolve the difficult issues raised by the management of elephant in a changing and humandominated world. Many of the required decisions have a strong element of human values implicit in them. How do South Africans wish to treat the other species with which they share our land? Extensive consultation and careful consideration of the values expressed by a wide range of stakeholders is also an essential part of the process of managing elephant in a democratic country. I am grateful to the many experts and interested persons who invested their time, experience and intellect to deliver this Assessment. I look forward to their continued engagement on the issue of elephant management, which is of great interest to many.