March 27, 2007 / 12:51 PM / 12 years ago

Zimbabwe to cull elephants as numbers explode: report

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe plans to cull its growing elephant population to limit damage to the environment and reduce conflict with humans, state media said on Tuesday.

Elephants cool off at the river in Addo elephant park outside Port Elizabeth in this February 27, 2007 file photo. Zimbabwe plans to cull its growing elephant population to limit damage to the environment and reduce conflict with humans, state media said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The reports came after a rampaging elephant trampled to death a British woman and her 10-year-old daughter on Saturday in the Hwange national part in northwest Zimbabwe.

The animals have also often stomped through villages, destroying crops and property.

Zimbabwe’s parks and wildlife authority says the southern African country’s elephant population has risen above 100,000, more than twice the 45,000 it can sustain.

“We are having an explosion of the elephant population,” the regional Chronicle newspaper quoted wildlife authority spokesman Edward Mbewe as saying. “This has proved to be destructive to the environment and there are more cases of humans encountering elephant invasions and attacks.”

The culling plans face opposition from local conservation groups who dispute the official figures, arguing that the government had not conducted a wildlife audit for almost seven years.

Mbewe said the cull would take place within the country’s annual hunting quota of 500, allowed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Zimbabwe earns about $15 million every year from elephant hunting.

There were no immediate figures on how many elephants on average Zimbabwe has allowed to be hunted in recent years, but environmentalists say such poaching is a growing problem.

Some CITES member states and international lobby groups are also opposed to elephant culling as well as ivory trade, which is banned in the country due to illegal poaching but which has a strong black market in Africa.

Neighboring South Africa also recently announced a new elephant management plan which could include both culling and contraception, saying the current elephant population of some 20,000 could double by 2020 with disastrous ecological consequences unless steps are taken to bring numbers down.

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