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THE FATE of the half a million or so free-ranging elephants in Africa depends on the choices people will make. What ‘moral standing’ do elephants deserve, and thus what constraints should we impose on our behaviour towards them? These are ethical questions. In general terms, ethics tells us what is good and bad behaviour, which human actions are right or wrong. Usually theories of ethics indicate a range of moral duties we owe to human beings; either generally or to those with whom we have specific relationships. In some cases our ethics also alerts us to duties we have towards non-human living beings or things. Thus, in our ethical theories we attempt to indicate to what extent we should restrain our actions so as to avoid negative impacts on other humans and living beings as well. We also consider what duties or actions we have to perform that will be beneficial and helpful to other people or species.
To assess the state of our knowledge about ethics and elephants is no easy affair. Different views on the moral standing of elephants and thus the obligations humans owe elephants, are not really a matter of scientific knowledge, although such knowledge might deeply influence our chosen ethics. At stake are human value choices that are developed through argument and discussion into ethical positions that suggest, prescribe, or legislate acceptable behaviour, and proscribe or discourage unacceptable treatment of elephants. The point of this assessment is thus to determine which ethical positions have been developed on various matters concerning the management of elephants and have been justified through reasoning. In open societies the diversity of views that arise about controversial moral issues generates intense debate. Since the early 1990s, world views that were once silent or repressed in South Africa have gained ascendancy and voice. These world views need careful consideration to determine from which to choose our ethical values.
This chapter portrays the different ethical views relevant to the management of elephants that are present in some or other form in the public domain. In some cases ethical views can be found in detailed academic reports, in other cases ethical views will be reconstructed from other sources, like presentations at public meetings, official documents, and research reports. The emphasis will be on showing the strengths and weaknesses of each view.
CHAPTER 6 deals specifically with fertility control as a possible means of population management of free-ranging African elephants. Because methods that are described here for elephants function by preventing cows from conceiving, fertility control cannot immediately reduce the population. This will only happen once mortality rates exceed birth rates. Considering, however, that elephants given the necessary resources can double their numbers every 15 years, fertility control may have an important role to play in population management.
The first part of the chapter is devoted to the reproductive physiology of elephants in order to provide the reader with information and understanding which relate to fertility control. This is followed by examples of contraceptive methods that have been used in mammals, and a description of past and ongoing research specifically carried out in elephants. Finally guidelines for a contraception programme are provided, followed by a list of key research issues and gaps in our knowledge of elephants pertaining to reproduction and fertility control.
In this chapter we will also attempt to answer the following questions in regard to reproductive control of African elephants:
• Do antibodies to the porcine zona pellucida (pZP) proteins recognise elephant zona pellucida (eZP) proteins or is the vaccine likely to work in African elephant cows?
• Is it possible to implement a contraceptive programme using the pZP vaccine?
• Is it practical to implement such a programme?
• What contraceptive efficacy can one expect?
• Is the method safe, reversible and ethical?
• What effect does the implementation have on the behaviour of a population?
• What are the effects of contraception on behaviour?
• What are the proximate and ultimate effects of contraception?
• Given the current technology, what population sizes can be tackled?
• What are the costs involved?
• Are there alternatives to pZP for contraception of elephants?
• What developments are in the pipeline that could facilitate implementation?
ASPECTS OF ELEPHANT REPRODUCTION THAT RELATE TO REPRODUCTIVE CONTROL
Elephants live in female-dominated herds comprising an old female referred to as the matriarch together with her mature daughters and their offspring, including sexually immature male calves (Owen-Smith, 1988). Female elephants remain in their natal herds their whole lives; male elephants leave their natal groups at approximately 12–14 years or when they reach sexual maturity (Poole, 1996a & b).
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.
THIS CHAPTER provides a synopsis of the law relevant to elephant management in South Africa. The authors provide an assessment of the law as a subset of the broader enquiry undertaken in the Assessment of Elephant Management in South Africa (‘the Assessment’), and in so doing, highlight shortcomings that impact on the efficacy of elephant management practices and strategies.
The Assessment is intended to inform the Authorising Body (policy makers) by way of the provision of high level expert advice in order to develop policy and law to regulate the management of elephants in all of its facets in South Africa. This chapter assesses the current status of elephant-related law in order to assist management and limit the risks associated with policy formulation or promulgation of legislation and regulations.
In making policy decisions, the Authorising Body is often presented with differing interpretations of the law that appear to present options or alternative approaches. This chapter is intended to help policy makers act in accordance with the law, or where the law is seen to be lacking, they are given a sound legal basis for departing from conventional approaches or are able to consider legislative intervention. The authors accordingly base their conclusions on judicial interpretations of the law, state the law as it is generally accepted to be, and indicate where compliance is mandatory. The opinions of the authors have been clearly distinguished from statements of existing law.
THE AUTHORS’ RESPONSE TO THE BRIEF
In giving effect to the requirements of the Assessment, the authors have adopted the following approach:
An accurate statement of the law is provided. This is based on conventional legal principles and is as far as possible free of the authors’ personal opinions or analyses, except where this is required by the context. Where reference is made to legal texts, the wording of the relevant statute or court judgement is used as far as practicable. Paraphrasing that may lose the import of the statements made is avoided unless the syntax otherwise requires.
The authors provide a summary of their conclusions and analysis of the law (strengths and weaknesses) in so far as it relates to elephant management and wildlife management generally. The conclusions of the authors are presented in such a way as to ensure that these are distinguishable from the legal texts themselves.
On the following morning we were up before the sun, and, travelling in a northerly direction, soon became aware that we were in a district frequented by elephants, for wherever we looked, trees were broken down, large branches snapped off, and bark and leaves strewn about in all directions, whilst the impress of their huge feet was to be seen in every piece of sandy ground. FC Selous (1881, 39), north of Gweru, Zimbabwe, in 1872
THE ISSUE of the effects of elephants within ecosystems has emerged strongly since the formulation of the concept of the ‘elephant problem and the concerns that elephants may irrevocably alter the remaining areas which are available to them’ (Caughley, 1976a). Two perspectives need to be kept in mind when these concerns are raised. Firstly, the order of Proboscideans (including the modern elephants) evolved in Africa as part of a unique group of mammals, the Afrotheria (Robinson & Seiffert, 2003), with their roots going back 80 million years. Proboscideans of various forms subsequently colonised all continents except for Australia and Antarctica; mammoths in the family Elephantidae remained abundant and widespread through most of Europe and North America until as recently as 12 000–16 000 years ago (Sukumar, 2003). The modern African elephant emerged about 3 million years ago. Hence, its relationships with other animal and plant species have been an integral part of the co-evolutionary history of the ecosystems and biodiversity of Africa.
Herbivores, through their consumption of plant tissues, affect the relative growth, survival and reproductive output of these plants, with consequences for vegetation structure, community composition and ecosystem processes (Huntly, 1991). Even relatively small herbivores can have profound effects in shaping ecosystem structure, particularly when they occur at high densities.
For example, Côté et al. (2004), writing about the increase in deer abundance, had the following to say:
They affect the growth and survival of many herb, shrub and tree species, modifying patterns of relative abundance and vegetation dynamics. Cascading effects on other species extend to insects, birds, and other mammals. Sustained over-browsing reduces plant cover and diversity, alters nutrient and carbon cycling, and redirects succession … simplified alternative states appear to be stable and difficult to reverse.
PRIOR TO European colonisation, elephants occurred virtually everywhere in the area that comprises the modern South Africa, as well as in much of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. By the beginning of the twentieth century, elephants were in decline over most of their former African range and almost extinct in South Africa. The main causes of the decline were hunting (for ivory, hides, and meat) and loss of habitat, mainly to agriculture. The establishment of protected areas has led to a remarkable recovery in elephant numbers in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Elephants remain relatively numerous in Zambia and Mozambique. In most of the rest of Africa, elephant populations are either very low (West Africa), or declined precipitously in the 1970s and 1980s and are now more or less stable (East Africa). The forest-dwelling elephants of Central Africa, almost certainly a different species, continue to decline at an alarming rate. Although the African savanna elephant is not at imminent risk of extinction (figure 1), its population trend has been, and continues to be, of international concern. Actions taken to manage elephant populations in Africa are subject to intense scrutiny and often political pressure. Legal international trade in elephant products is strictly regulated in terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which South Africa is a signatory.
This assessment deals exclusively with the management of near-wild populations of the savanna-dwelling African elephant (Loxodonta africana) in South Africa. It does not deal with captive elephants. Information on the elephant populations of southern and East Africa is clearly relevant to this Assessment and has been cited, but the social and ecological conditions under which they occur differ significantly from the circumstances in South Africa. The South African situation, where elephant and human distributions are completely spatially separate, is unique.
The elephant population density (i.e. the number of elephants per square kilometre of current elephant range, for a given period of time) has risen in parts of the southern African states listed above to the point where it raises concerns regarding impacts on the environment and people. The key concerns in South Africa are the appearance and ecological functioning of the landscape, the potential impacts on other species of plants and animals, and the livelihoods and safety of people adjacent to the elephant range.
THE ELEPHANT debate deals largely with population size, how elephant numbers change over time, how they may affect other species (e.g. Owen- Smith et al., 2006; Van Aarde et al., 2006), and how elephants should be managed (e.g. Whyte et al., 2003; Van Aarde & Jackson, 2007). Changes in elephant numbers are the basis of many management plans and policies. For instance, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) utilises trends in numbers and poaching data to inform ivory trade decisions (Hunter & Milliken, 2004). Past decisions to cull elephants in several parks across the southern African subcontinent have also been motivated by numbers and trends in numbers over time (Cumming & Jones, 2005).
The focus of past management on numbers, rather than impact, may have detracted from the ultimate goal of controlling or reducing the effect elephants had on vegetation, other species, and people. The limited options available when managing numbers (see chapters on contraception, translocation and culling) and the emotive issues that surround this may also detract from its popularity and effectiveness. However, a multitude of options exists and can be developed to manage impact (see Chapter 12). Ultimately, the effectiveness of management hinges on monitoring the outcomes for impact, which include the response of affected species, ecological processes, elephant range utilisation, and elephant numbers. This monitoring may be done on a local scale (e.g. around waterholes), at the park level (e.g. to monitor the effectiveness of contraception and culling), or on the regional scale (e.g. to monitor the effectiveness of restoring seasonal and large-scale movement patterns). Therefore it is important to unravel and understand the mechanisms that determine spatial utilisation patterns and how numbers vary across space and time. This chapter focuses on assessing our understanding of the factors that determine these variables.
In this chapter we compare the social, spatial, and demographic profiles of South Africa's elephant populations to those of elephant populations elsewhere in Africa. We also make a concerted effort to explain similarities and differences, and we use these to evaluate the response of elephant populations to their living conditions in South Africa's conservation areas.
ELEPHANTS PLAY a huge role within any landscape where they occur. They are habitat engineers. As charismatic species they awaken emotions among people like few others. As keystone species, they contribute significantly to the integrity of ecosystems and must be very carefully managed. From an economic perspective, they are also value generators. In this broad context, we first consider the range of relevant economic values, using the Total Economic Value approach in a generic sense, and then apply this framework to identify the specific factors that determine the economic value of elephants in South Africa. Thereafter we summarise both regional (southern African) and international studies that consider the economic value of elephants. We conclude with an assessment of the state of knowledge on elephants’ contribution to the economic value of elephant-containing ecosystems and the economy as a whole.
This assessment borrows heavily from studies concerning the economic value of elephants carried out in Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, since similar studies in South Africa could not be located. To date, published studies in South Africa focused either on the cost of the individual elephant management options – which is a subject treated in the relevant management chapters of this book – or else investigations of the value of tourism. The specific contribution of elephants to the value of tourism was not isolated in these studies.
BACKGROUND ON ECONOMIC VALUE
Adam Smith, the ‘father of modern economics’, distinguishes between two types of economic values: exchange values and use values. He clarifies as follows (quoted from reprint in Smith, 1997, 131):
The word VALUE … has two different meanings, and sometimes express the utility of some particular object, and sometimes the power of purchasing other goods which the possession of that object conveys. The one may be called ‘value in use’; the other, ‘value in exchange’. The things which have the greatest value in use have frequently little or no value in exchange; and, on the contrary, those which have the greatest value in exchange have frequently little or no value in use.
He explains the distinction between exchange and use value by referring to the well-known water-diamond paradox. Nothing is more useful than water, yet it has almost no exchange value. In contrast, diamonds have relatively little real use, but have extremely high exchange values. Exchange values are easy to observe.
The general impression left on my mind was that, with civilization closing in on all sides, ultimately something must be done to segregate the game areas from those used for farming; otherwise sooner or later some excuse for liquidation of the wild animals will be found … North of the Letaba River the country West of the Park consists mainly of native locations and areas. Here the Park itself might be fenced off.
Of course, a suitable fence over 200 miles long would be a most expensive undertaking, and its upkeep considerable. It would have to traverse all kinds of country, including stony hill ranges, and dense bush, but to my mind one of the chief difficulties would lie in the wide sand rivers running from west to east, and subject to annual heavy floods, which would carry away any kind of fence, and on their subsidence leave the way open for animals to pass freely up and down the river bed.
J Stevenson-Hamilton, 23 January 1946, Annual Report of Warden, Kruger National Park – 1945 (National Parks Board of Trustees, 1946, pp. 11–12)
THE CONTAINMENT of elephants is an important aspect of their management when and where control of their movements is required. Physical barriers such as fences are passive control measures (Cumming & Jones, 2005) and are often seen as the most effective approach to containing elephants. Fences are not the only way to influence the distribution of elephants, however. Several other options are discussed in this chapter, including deterrents, water manipulation and behavioural manipulation. There are several reasons for the containment of wildlife, and particularly elephants. One is animal disease control (Freitag-Ronaldson & Foxcroft, 2003) – to protect livestock from wildlifeassociated diseases, and also to protect wildlife from diseases of domestic species. Containment is a second important reason for fencing – to protect neighbouring communities and infrastructure from damage (especially by elephants and predators). Furthermore, by fencing a property, ownership of the species present is established and animals are somewhat protected from illegal hunting (see detailed discussion of this issue in Chapter 11).
PURPOSE OF FENCING
The containment of wildlife
Many small wildlife areas in South Africa are distributed amongst farms and villages with people, domestic stock and crops. This often leads to conflict between humans and elephants (Chapter 4).
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.
The development of elephant translocations in South Africa
THE NUMBER of game reserves and game ranches increased tremendously in South Africa over the past two decades, setting demands on the wildlife translocation industry that spurred the evolution and unique development of elephant translocation to the current level of proficiency. Initially, small groups of juvenile elephants, originating from culling operations in Kruger, were translocated to several game ranches and reserves all over South Africa (Du Toit, 1991). Larger groups were moved to places such as Pilanesberg and Madikwe National Parks in the North West Province, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi in KwaZulu-Natal and Songimvelo in Mpumulanga.
The first adult elephant groups were moved in 1993 from Gonarhezou in Zimbabwe to Madikwe National Park (200 elephants) and Phinda Game Reserve (10 elephants). In the following year, which also marked the end of elephant culling in Kruger, 146 elephants were moved from Kruger into various reserves, with 50 of them going to Welgevonden in Limpopo Province. An important landmark was achieved in 1997 with the first translocations of adult elephant bulls to Pilanesberg from Kruger, which now meant that any size of elephant could be moved, making South Africa a world leader on this front (Slotow & Van Dyk, 2002).
Historical problems and solutions
The translocated juvenile elephants formed large groups, were very secretive and avoided human contact, staying mostly in dense bush and thickets. There were reports of break-outs and abnormal aggression towards humans, and in some instances even fatal attacks (Slotow & Van Dyk, 2002). The introduction of family groups in Madikwe in 1993 had a positive effect on their behaviour and the majority of juveniles integrated with these herds and became less secretive afterwards. An additional dramatic reaction was the killing of black and white rhino by young, rogue elephant bulls coming into musth at an early age, especially in Pilanesberg National Park and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserves. While the majority of problem cases were handled by destroying the specific culprits, the translocation of adult elephant bulls into Pilanesberg National Park and Hluhluwe–Umfolozi provided a long-term solution for the rhino killers (Slotow et al., 2002).
In answer to the question ‘Is containment of a population eruption desirable?’ Graeme Caughley replied ‘This is not a scientific question. I can boast of no qualifications that would make my opinion any more valuable than those of my two immediate neighbours, a garage mechanic on the one hand and an Air Vice-Marshall on the other.’ (Caughley, 1981)
INTENTION AND APPROACH
THIS CHAPTER draws on material from previous chapters and builds linkages among them. We supply some theoretical background that may help explain the consequences of various approaches to the ‘elephant problem’ as currently framed, a ‘problem’ which has arisen in conjunction with the growth of human settlements and activities across the landscape. We construct and discuss an integrative framework, and then summarise and synthesise the main points from the contents of Chapters 1–11 into this framework.
Using the above analysis, we then suggest how decision makers might most usefully approach and formulate elephant issues. We present a range of options for particular circumstances, at the level of societal influences, strategy and practical implementation, and the integration of these three. Finally we list what we see after the assessment as important gaps, and conclude.
MAKING COMPLEX ISSUES TRACTABLE
One underlying reason why the ‘elephant problem’ appears so intractable is that it is complex (Chapter 1). This affects decision making. Kinnaman & Bleich (2004) describe a range of responses, from toleration through to full collaborative behaviour, where there are different combinations of agreement and certainty (figure 1). The elephant issue clearly falls into the zone of complexity. Therefore it should not come as a surprise that reductionist ‘command-and-control’ policies (Chapter 1) have not succeeded. Even if they had been correct in assessing the biodiversity outcomes as simple and predictable (and there is serious doubt that this is the case (Chapter 3)), there is no doubt that the associated social responses (Chapter 4; Chapter 9), and hence the problem as a whole, are complex. Some even feel it is a ‘wicked problem’ (Conklin, 2006), insoluble because of ever-shifting goalposts.
Forming collaborative partnerships is central to the resolution of such issues. Figure 1 suggests that the predominantly unilateral management of elephant in the past operated in the command-and-control domain, and was therefore unlikely to lead to lasting solutions of any kind (Chapter 1).