South Africa to re-start elephant culling

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London, Feb 26 (UNI) Thousands of elephants will be culled in South Africa as the experts feel a surge in their population could be a threat to other species.

This would be a second time the culling has been introduced years after being banned.

At the turn of the 20th century South Africa had only a handful of elephants left, but years of conservation work has brought their numbers up to around 18,000. There are about 600,000 in the whole of Africa, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Bob Scholes, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who headed a government panel on the issue, said culling was not only reasonable, it was ''inescapable''. He said a target number had not yet been set.

According to experts, their population has reached a level where they can threaten the survival of other local species, particularly plant types in areas of high biodiversity.

But some conservationists argue the environmental impact is less severe than is being claimed, while animal rights campaigners, who have threatened to hold public protests if culling goes ahead, say the elephants' intelligence and their close-knit social structures make culling deeply inhumane.

''We think it's a really sad day. We would not want to encourage people to come here and support a country that has policies like this, '' Michele Pickover, spokesman for Animals Rights Africa, said.

The elephants are likely to be killed by a single shot to the brain, fired by a skilled marksman from a helicopter as they were before the last cull ended in 1994. Entire family groups should be killed at the same time, rather than leaving a few traumatised survivors or orphans.

The ivory from culled elephants will be stockpiled while South Africa negotiates with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species over its possible sale.

UNI XC ARB ND1822

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