HARARE (January 5, 2005) – Zimbabwe’s plan for a test-cull of elephants in parks and wildlife management areas is part of an overall program to control burgeoning elephant populations throughout southern Africa.

At a recent wildlife symposium at Sun City in South Africa, Zimbabwe was chosen to spearhead the campaign to manage elephant populations, which includes culling as an option.

Over-population of elephants has become a severe problem in Botswana, which has an estimated 123,000 elephants on territory that can support, at most , 80,000. However, Zimbabwe is also experiencing problems with a herd that has grown from 89,000 to more than 100,000 in four years.

Other countries attending the symposium included Tanzania (120,000 elephants), Zambia (25,000), Mozambique (19,000), Namibia and South Africa (14,000 each). In some areas, according to delegates to the symposium, elephant numbers need to be reduced by as much as 50 per cent in order to protect their environment. As well, in some areas elephants pose a serious threat to human populations and settlements.

Culling is a controversial option. In Botswana, which has the worst elephant problem, it was rejected because it would offend international animal-rights groups and damage the country’s valuable tourist industry. The Zimbabwe project is intended partly to reduce elephant populations, and partly to test the reaction of such international groups.

Already, the plan has drawn fire from conservation groups within Zimbabwe itself, who insist there is no evidence an elephant over-population exists and say the country should do a comprehensive elephant census before beginning such a cull.