AS A CONSEQUENCE of the rising number of elephants in protected areas in South Africa, the ecosystems that contain elephants and the people that live adjacent to elephant populations are perceived to be coming under increasing threat. The control of elephant populations by culling has been under a moratorium since the mid-1990s. Attempts to resolve differences of opinion between the authorities responsible for elephant management in the country, private elephant owners, animal rights and biodiversity conservation organisations in South Africa and abroad, and representatives of local communities, have to date not led to a widely agreed future course of action. In 2006, the Minister for Environment Affairs and Tourism convened a Science Round Table to advise on the issue. The Round Table recommended that a Scientific Assessment of Elephant Management be undertaken.
This book is the result of that Assessment, undertaken during 2007, on the authority of the Minister. The Assessment is the first activity in a proposed elephant research programme, which aims to reduce the uncertainties regarding the consequences of various elephant management strategies. The purpose of this Assessment is to:
• document what is known, unknown, and disputed on the topic of elephant–ecosystem–human interactions in South Africa
• synthesise and communicate the information in such a way that decision making and the reaching of social consensus is facilitated.
Note that the Assessment itself does not constitute policy at any level, although it is hoped that it is relevant to the process of policy making at all levels, from the individual protected area through provincial, local, national, regional and international policy.
The Assessment of South African Elephant Management focuses on the interactions between elephants, humans and the ecosystems in which they occur and, in particular, on the possible way elephants could be managed based on their ecology, biology and social significance.
The Assessment addresses more-or-less wild elephants of the species Loxodonta africana, in South Africa. Some of these elephant populations are shared with neighbouring countries. Elephants in captive environments, as defined by the Norms and Standards (DEAT, 2008), are not discussed – that is, elephants that require intensive human intervention in the form of food, water, artificial housing and veterinary care, and which are kept in an area of less than 2000 ha designed to prevent escape.