By Miriam Mangwaya, Newsday
he Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) has objected to the decision by government to control the elephant population by culling.
Zimbabwe has Africa’s second largest elephant population after Botswana, at 83 000, about 66% more than its optimum capacity of 50,000 and is considering culling.
Overpopulation of elephants has resulted in habitat destruction, changes in vegetation structure and a rise in human-wildlife conflicts.
But Zela said culling might result in long-lasting effects on elephants, and could have a negative impact on the majestic species in the long run.
“Culling is an immediate solution that will help with the overpopulation. However, culling will result in long-lasting effects on elephants and may have a negative impact on the majestic species in the long run,” the environmental lawyers said in a recent report.
“Research has shown that culling of elephants has long-lasting effects on those that survive and or are left behind. It leaves an impact on their social structure that can go on for decades.
“Conserving elephant population is more than just a numbers game, it is also essential that complex social function is maintained as this is a crucial aspect of elephant biology and population integrity.”
The environmental lawyers said there were other conservative methods that could be used to control elephants while also generating income for the government, and suggested increased hunting quotas.
Government could also export the excess elephants and earn foreign currency, Zela said. “So why cull when we can trade and use other methods such as translocation. We did not inherit the earth from our fathers, but borrowed it from our children,” Zela said.
“If we do not adopt progressive ways, the next generations down the line might only get to see elephants on televisions and in books. I implore the authorities to explore other options before they cull the massive elephant herd that Zimbabwe has.”
The organisation advised government to adopt other non-lethal methods of elephant population management.
“There is a need for the authorities to undertake a census to determine the actual numbers and the concentration of the elephant herds. More research needs to be undertaken on other methods to deal with the elephant population,” it said.
“There is also a need for stakeholders to convene and develop another elephant management plan and assess the success and challenges of the previous one that ran from 2015 to 2020.”