FOR THE purpose of this chapter, we define two broad circumstances under which elephants are killed for management purposes. The first, which we will term culling, is where a significant fraction of the elephant population are killed with the objective of reducing the population size or controlling its growth rate. The second is when specific individuals are killed to prevent them from causing further damage or threatening human lives (hereafter referred to as ‘problem animal control’) (DEAT, 2008). Decisions on the implementation of problem animal control are relatively uncontentious. When an individual poses a threat to human life, or persistently causes damage to infrastructure or agriculture, that identified individual is dealt with according to set decision-making norms and procedures, which may include lethal management (DEAT, 2008). Culling for population management is much more complex and is at the root of much of the elephant debate (Caughley, 1976).
Imposed population control may be necessary when natural mechanisms of population regulation are not operating, for whatever reason (Chapter 2). Besides controlling population numbers, manipulation of agesex class composition may be necessary to correct historical effects, e.g. populations founded by young elephants only (Garaï et al., 2004).
The purpose of this chapter is to provide a resource for decision-making around culling of elephants and problem animal control and to evaluate our current understanding, knowledge, and gaps regarding lethal management of elephants. Culling has been applied as a management tool for elephants since elephants have been managed, and we have a good understanding of certain aspects. However, increased accountability to the broader community has necessitated that all aspects are well considered.
The specific objectives of this chapter are to: (1) describe the history of culling, (2) briefly describe and evaluate the methods for culling, (3) describe the various management contexts and objectives for culling as a viable intervention, (4) highlight the constraints and consequences of culling, and (5) define gaps in our knowledge.
THE HISTORY OF CULLING
Zimbabwe and other southern African countries
An overview of culling in southern Africa is provided to place the South African experience in context. Although this assessment focuses on elephant management in South Africa, numerically, most culling that has taken place to date has occurred in Zimbabwe, where culling to control population numbers was first implemented in 1966.