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Soukous

Hwange's Dilemma

173 posts in this topic

To restore the ecosystem more than just closing waterholes is needed.

Apart from 'holistic' or other management, the funding needs to be in place. Going the 'high biomass' route requires more up front investment, but potentially a higher return. Apart from investment money, knowledge need to be available for managing the area, lodges. Is this knowledge in place? Wildlife managers, lodge managers, accountants, marketing people, chefs, waiters, gardeners. All those people need education, is that available to the communities living near the park?

I can see the benefits of both routes, the human population will grow, so it wouldn't be bad if the park can provide jobs, but this will attract yet more people. Where those people settle need to be planned, by involving the traditional authorities, as they are in control of a lot of that, they can greatly reduce potential human-wildlife conflict, by directing where people can settle and farm, and where not. But they need to be trained in that.

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@@egilio:

 

You ask whether sufficient knowledge is in place to enable the implementation of a "high biomass" route in Hwange. Never having been there, I don't know. However, I'm sure it is available in many other places on the African Continent (Northern RangelandsTrust and Laikipia in Kenya and many places in South Africa are examples).

 

You started post #151 with the statement that "just closing down waterholes" wouldn't restore the ecosystem on its own. Here, we agree. Previously, you acknowledged that closure would also probably reduce the numbers of many other species (#147). You suggested that, among herbivores, gemsbok and, possibly, sable might benefit. You also thought that wild dog and cheetah numbers might increase as a result of the likely reduction in lion density which would follow the drop in numbers of most herbivores. Here, your judgement seemed to be that reduction in available prey would be more than compensated for by less intra guild predator competition. This might be optimistic on your part. It is my opinion that waterhole closure would be bad for tourism, bad for the economy and bad for wildlife. However, in the long run, with no active human management, the presence of dry season water will allow elephants to multiply like weeds to the detriment of both other species and of the environment. @@ZaminOz elegantly summarised the Hwange Dilemma by referring to "the elephant in the room". The debate should focus on elephants and not water.

 

In post #149, @@egilio summarises what is needed for an effective elephant cull and accepts that a major initial depletion in numbers will have to be followed by a lower level of annual culling to prevent re-growth of the population. He accepts that, if culling is conducted with helicopters, the latter will quickly become aversive to elephants. However, this doesn't necessarily imply that elephants will be frightened of or aggressive towards tourist vehicles. Nevertheless, most (possibly all but myself) here are unwilling to accept the idea of culling. I am concerned that few, if any, alternatives have been offered by those antipathetic to a cull other than waterhole closure or pushing elephants to a trans-frontier park which doesn't currently exist.

 

Waterhole closure will probably precipitate mass die off of many species, resulting in more deaths and certainly more suffering than culling, but might assuage consciences and will result in a park that is so bereft of wildlife that few will wish to visit. Failure to address the problem at all is arguably worse as it will eventually result in the same outcome, but with an even more desertified environment. The only alternative is that proposed by @@Allan Savory and @Last Chance Safaris. However, to gain understanding of what it entails, it is apparently necessary to attend a solutions workshop at Dimbangombe. As an act of faith and in the hope of learning of a genuine alternative to culling, I have undertaken to put my money where my mouth is and do so. It seems that nobody else here has. Pity.

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@@douglaswise I think we agree on many things actually.

Less lions will relax their pressure on cheetahs and wild dogs, but those species will always be at lower densities than lions or hyenas. The added benefit of waterholes is that it makes wildlife viewing predictable, you just go to a waterhole in the dry season and you will see a lot of animals. But I'd like to emphasize that 'going the intensive management' route would also entail setting up/improving/expanding tourism/plumbing/electrician/mechanic/marketing etc education in Zimbabwe, which wouldn't be bad, but requires investment from the politic side.

 

I would love to be able to go to Dimbangombe, but I just don't have the funds (I'm a student!).

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@egilio:

 

I agree with you that we agree over quite a lot of things. This is possibly scarcely surprising, given that we both are or have been professionally involved with wildlife management - though, in my case, only peripherally.

 

Although I have been concerned over the costs of a trip to Zimbabwe in August and feel it would be a waste of air fares just to spend 3 or 4 days at Dimbangombe and go home again, I am still mulling over possibilities. @@LastChanceSafaris suggested a Hwange trip to bolt on to the workshop. However, he was suggesting stays at relatively high end lodges and, as far as I'm aware, noone other than myself expressed interest. It seems unlikely, therefore, that a solutions workshop - certainly one that involves Safaritalkers - will take place. I continue to toy with the idea of a trip that embraces Dimbangombe and Hwange. My trip would be contingent on Allan Savory being in residence at Dimbangombe and being prepared to discuss the "Hwange Dilemma" at some length. I would also wish subsequently to visit Hwange in the company of a guide with sufficient experience to be able to discuss the problem on the ground. I see no need for high end lodges. I understand that Gwango Elephant Lodge is only a two hour drive from Victoria Falls airport and caters to travellers on a wide range of budgets. It would seem to allow for full days in the Park as well as having a waterhole just out of the Park and an area to night drive. It has been well reviewed. One could, I suppose, hire a vehicle and self drive. Better, would be to be driven by a guide. Perhaps, someone from Dimbangombe, familiar with holistic management and the identification of a deteriorating ecosystem, could act as guide.

 

I'm really thinking aloud and hoping for feedback from others. I suspect that @@Allan Savory and @@LastChanceSafaris have ceased to follow the debate here and I may try to contact them directly. However, I'm sure there are other Safaritalkers with information relevant to semi- budget travel in Hwange and I would appreciate their thoughts.

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Even before I post this I can foresee the response it will provoke but, I am posting it anyway because it is, in my view, the only solution that will work.

I know it is unlikely to be popular and unlikely to be adopted but I believe that what is needed is not suggestions that assuage our conscience and make us feel good, but suggestions that have a chance of working on the ground.

 

Organise an annual cull 2000 of elephants, the culling to be done by hunters who pay for the privilege

At an average of 7kg of ivory per animal that would give a yield of 14,000kg
The wholesale price of ivory is $1000 per kg which -sold through legal channels would give a revenue of $14m

 

Each animal would yield about 1000kg of meat; half of which could then be sold to the Chinese market at $5 per kg, giving a further $5m in revenue.

The other half would be given to the local communities (a) as a reward for not poaching and (B) providing them with a food supply that their government is unable to provide.

 

This would deliver a total of $19m profit annually.

 

I believe that that annual budget of Zim Parks is in the region of $11m; so this would cover their entire annual budget, with a substantial surplus that could go back into wildlife management.

 

It should be borne in mind that even this drastic measure would do little more than stop the elephant population expanding further.

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Unfortunately I think @@Sackrider suggestion has merit. Though, as stated above the cull would need to (initially) be more than an annual 2000 elephants.

 

One downside to an annual cull would be some angry elephants (with long memories) in a photographic safari area ~ a recipe for disaster.

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@@Sackrider

While I follow the logic I think that it is somewhat unrealistic on a couple of practical fronts:

 

1. I can't see 2000 international Hunters paying to go to Hwange each year to hunt/shoot/cull elephants. I think that you will find that the whole of Zim probably only gets several dozen international hunters a year (and they want to hunt a variety of species over a 2 - 3 week safari... very expensive). Also hunters want to hunt big mature bulls. To be a be a successful cull you (sadly) need to cull entire family groups not just 2000 mature bulls, otherwise you leave deeply traumatised family members in the bush... lots of them. And as @@Geoff says, this is not a good thing for a photo tourist area that allows walking safaris! With an annual cull you simply compound this trauma each year. As callous as some people think all hunters are, I doubt there are many who could stomach shooting cows, juveniles and small calves. Also, annually shooting 2000 bulls would create an elephant gender imbalance in the park.

To cull as "humanely" as possible, the general rationale is that it is to be done by professionals in one go over as short a period of time as possible, so as not to drag out the trauma (of which there will be plenty). Professionals would expect to be paid by the government for what is a dangerous and also extremely unpalatable and distressing (for the professional hunters / rangers) thing to have to do.

 

2. I am not sure that there is even a market in China for elephant meat? If there is, it is the first I've heard of it?

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I agree with most of your first point @@ZaminOz

I doubt that you'd get hunters to pay to cull that many elephant - of all genders and ages. However, the numbers quoted by @@Sackrider did not show any revenue from the hunters themselves, just for the elephant ivory and meat. Therefore what is not killed by hunters could be culled by the Parks department.

 

There is a market for elephant meat in China - especially trunk meat!

 

@@Geoff - yes, such a cull would undoubtedly make the elephants a lot less relaxed around people and vehicles - I think that this would be an acceptable price if it really can 'save' the Hwange habitat.

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I have some good news for those of you who are still following this thread.

 

While we have been debating, there has been significant progress.

 

Dr Ian Games, a renowned Zimbabwean expert on conservation and wildlife management, has been working to prepare a Management Plan for Hwange NP.

This plan has now been submitted, and accepted at government level, and is now the Official Management Plan for Hwange NP.

 

i have not yet managed to get a copy of the full plan but I have seen sections of it and it does look encouraging.

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That is good news @Soukous

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@@Geoff @@Sackrider @@ZaminOz

 

Firstly, culling 2000 elephants a year wouldn't change the population much, and the goal of culling is to reduce the population. What @@Sackrider describe is harvesting, nothing more, nothing less. Harvesting 2000 elephants a year can be done though, and there are enough people willing to pay for that, unlike @@ZaminOz thinks there are thousands, probably over ten thousand, of American hunters going to Africa each year to hunt. A few thousand will go to Zimbabwe and hunderds of them used to shoot elephants. Not just trophy bull elephants, but what's actually a popular hunt is shooting tuskless female elephants. If they would sell it as a cull hunt, it would typically carry lower day rates and much lower 'trophy' fees, but each hunter would should more than one elephant. This would reduce the revenue quite a bit though. And if it's truly culling, whole herds should be shot, to have as little impact as possible on other herds. I doubt hunters will have a problem with shooting calves as long as it's in line with their thoughts of what is good conservation.

On the meat front though, it would be very difficult to collect and distribute the meat to communities in time. One elephant is usually easily dispatched, often done by villagers themselves. But if you cull inside the park, far away from villages, you don't have those extra hands at hand. Culling a family herd of 6-10 elephants, then cutting them up, loading them into trucks, drive the trucks to villages hours away to distribute the meat you would need a sizeable crew of people to do this, plus several off-road refrigerated trucks. And the beef industry in the country might not be happy with it and cause trouble to raising questions about health issues as the meat is not checked, the animals are not checked etc.

And like @@Geoff said, it will also have an impact on photographic tourism.

 

@@Soukous Hope you find that report, looking forward to it!

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@Soukous:

 

Like @@egilio, I do hope you will be able to report further with more details of the new management plan.

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In a perfect world where we would live more naturally and in harmony with nature and no corruption this problems, don't appear to be problems but possibilities.

Shoot 30 000 elephants and give the meat to the local community and sell the ivory.
Keep the 10 000 elephants that is left in a good balance by shooting 500 a year, the meat goes to the local community and the ivory helps running the park. Let’s say that every elephant has 10 kilos of ivory, legal ivory would probably sell for around 2000usd, that will mean 600 million dollar the first years until you reach a population of 10 000 then the ivory every year would bring in 10 million dollar, every year! Imagine the meat for the local community on top of that!!


Results no more poachers from the local community they get more meat if they protect the animals and if 50% of the money from the ivory also goes to the local community everybody would be an antipoaching ranger so poachers would be wise to stay clear.


Africa’s wildlife is a huge resource if handled properly, revenues from tourism, meat, hides, ivory could go back into the local economy. I know this is almost a utopia because corruption but imagen if there were no corruption, legal ivory would not open up the black market like it does now. Meat and money would go to the local community and also to manage the huge wildlife areas, no fences except maybe around some of the villages and farms, money for doing this would be plenty.

I think that they have no choice though, they have to shoot a lot of elephants, or let them starve and let other animals starve to. Close down the waterholes! Where will the elephants go? How many conflicts would they cause? How many people and elephants killed? It is easy to sit outside Africa and judge but if 30 000 wolfs would go berserk on the countryside and towns of let’s say Germany and kill quite a few people and livestock then they would be shoot straight away. All of them!!

I would feel much better to eat elephant meat or bush meat from a well-regulated park than from pigs that never have seen the sun and are transported and stressed for more than a day before getting gassed because that’s how most pigs live and die!

I know that culling elephants is not a pretty job, to take out a whole herd is a precision thing and not hunting but butchering, but after the initial culling the 500 elephants a year could be hunted in a nicer way.

Conclusion Cull them NOW do the right thing for all the animals they should be our priority together with the local communities not what not so knowledgeable people outside Africa tells us. Make a huge campaign with numbers and colored diagrams and try to make people understand that all the alternatives are worse.

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@@Geoff @@Sackrider @@ZaminOz

 

Firstly, culling 2000 elephants a year wouldn't change the population much, and the goal of culling is to reduce the population. What @@Sackrider describe is harvesting, nothing more, nothing less. Harvesting 2000 elephants a year can be done though, and there are enough people willing to pay for that, unlike @@ZaminOz thinks there are thousands, probably over ten thousand, of American hunters going to Africa each year to hunt. A few thousand will go to Zimbabwe and hunderds of them used to shoot elephants. Not just trophy bull elephants, but what's actually a popular hunt is shooting tuskless female elephants. If they would sell it as a cull hunt, it would typically carry lower day rates and much lower 'trophy' fees, but each hunter would should more than one elephant. This would reduce the revenue quite a bit though. And if it's truly culling, whole herds should be shot, to have as little impact as possible on other herds. I doubt hunters will have a problem with shooting calves as long as it's in line with their thoughts of what is good conservation.

On the meat front though, it would be very difficult to collect and distribute the meat to communities in time. One elephant is usually easily dispatched, often done by villagers themselves. But if you cull inside the park, far away from villages, you don't have those extra hands at hand. Culling a family herd of 6-10 elephants, then cutting them up, loading them into trucks, drive the trucks to villages hours away to distribute the meat you would need a sizeable crew of people to do this, plus several off-road refrigerated trucks. And the beef industry in the country might not be happy with it and cause trouble to raising questions about health issues as the meat is not checked, the animals are not checked etc.

And like @@Geoff said, it will also have an impact on photographic tourism.

 

@@Soukous Hope you find that report, looking forward to it!

I think you have really valid points, but to let hunters pay for doing culling would not be a good idea, firstly you will not get hunters not real ones anyway. Secondly you don’t want amateurs on this job culling is extremely hard work and sensitive you want to do it in a safe way and make sure you do it as less stressful for the animals as possible.

 

Maybe to allow hunting when the population has stabilized after the massive culling but outside the park, to make a lot of tourist dollars and set aside some wild areas that are wilder with fewer tourists but still bring in money

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I agree that culling of elephants is a tough job, and needs to be handled by professionals. I was just making the point to ZaminOz that he's underestimating how many (American) hunters come to Africa to shoot elephants. The commitment to hunting and conservation, and the capabilities of tourists hunters vary greatly I agree with that too.

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Posted (edited)

@@egilio I agree with what you are saying. There may well be lots of people in America with guns who wouldn't flinch at shooting elephants of all ages with whatever collection of guns they have... But like @@Tomas I don't consider every moron with a gun willing to shoot something to be a "hunter". I don't think as many "hunters" as you estimate would want to cull elephant families. But its a moot point, because culling elephants (if it came to that) should really only be done by professionals.

Hunters (true hunters) don't come to Africa to shoot elephants, they come to hunt them and culling (in the numbers being hypothesised here) is not hunting, it is systematic, cold slaughter.

Edited by ZaminOz

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I profess no knowledge of optimum cull methods, but for the need to kill entire family groups. It would seem to be that the use of helicopters would maximise the probability of achieving a complete group cull. Furthermore, it would hopefully prevent elephants from becoming aversive to people and tourist vehicles. Whether the use of rifles would be better than, say, gassing (should it be practicable) is also worth examination.

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I profess no knowledge of optimum cull methods, but for the need to kill entire family groups. It would seem to be that the use of helicopters would maximise the probability of achieving a complete group cull. Furthermore, it would hopefully prevent elephants from becoming aversive to people and tourist vehicles. Whether the use of rifles would be better than, say, gassing (should it be practicable) is also worth examination.

Guns is the only way to cull, Helicopters should be used but you need a ground crew also and a crew to take care of the meat and the tusks.

 

Culling elephants is no fun job at all, a lot of hard work and should be done by experienced people.

 

I can’t say that I am experienced to cull elephants, I have been hunting elephants, sedating big animals and spend time with hunters that have been culling and seen footage. I have been culling other animals and it is no fun believe me and definitely not hunting at al. I have also owned my own butchery and slaughter house.

 

If Hwange needs more people to cull elephants I will be a volunteer, if they need me.

 

I think after reading up on the subject that culling Hwanges elephants seems to be a necessity and a really good thing to do to save one of Africa’s finest park and make it livable for al animals.

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@Tomas:

 

You state that "guns is the only way to cull". You may be right, but what authority do you have to be so certain? Certainly, guns are superior to anaesthetic darts and these are the only methods that I'm aware of that have been used in the past. However, here we are contemplating a cull of unprecedented scale. Technological advances might allow contemplation of new and superior methods.

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@Tomas:

 

You state that "guns is the only way to cull". You may be right, but what authority do you have to be so certain? Certainly, guns are superior to anaesthetic darts and these are the only methods that I'm aware of that have been used in the past. However, here we are contemplating a cull of unprecedented scale. Technological advances might allow contemplation of new and superior methods.

Personaly I can’t see any other way than guns. My authority? I haven’t claim to have authority, knowledge maybe as a Professional Hunter.

 

Of course we have bombs but that wouldn’t be too nice, poison terrible, Darts with tranquilizer I know some that elephants are really sensitive to and they would die from, but costly and not practical for several reasons one it is dangerous to handle, two elephants could run of, three you have to get really close and in the end stress the elephants more.

 

I didn’t mean to offend you or say that I decide what goes or not, but my firm belief is that guns and bullets are the only way but if you know of another way please feel free to suggest something better.

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@@ZaminOz I regularly see cull hunts being offered to tourist hunters. Usually on game farms, but sometimes for water buffalo in Northern Australia too for example, and they have no problem selling those. There are a lot of people who like to hunt the way you describe it, but there are also a lot of people who just want to shoot, and preferably as much as possible. They have no problem shooting springboks from the back of a bakkie, or shooting 200+ water buffalo in a week and leaving the carcasses to rot as there is no time to process meat or 'trophies'.

Maybe there are not many 'true' hunters would want to cull elephants, but don't forget that many 'true' hunters see hunting as one of the very few tools of conservation, and do anything for conservation...And there are lots of people who just want to shoot and kill (lots of people for example shoot gophers or squirrels, nothing to do with 'true' hunting, or with conservation) and they would be willing to cull elephants. But we all here agree that it should be done by experienced professional hunters, to minimize trauma on the elephants.

 

I don't think using tranquilizers is a good idea. It takes some time to load a tranquilizing gun, it takes time for the animals to go down, and it's costly at several hundred dollars per dose of tranquilizer. You will end up with elephants from the same herd going down in several square km. We had to dart several elephants at several instances for de-snaring (snared young one, so had to dart matriarch and mother first to get to those) and having 3 animals down spread out over several hundred meters can be chaotic, not in the least place because the rest of the herd is still around too.

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That it exist people who likes to cull animals I can understand but I would not call them hunters. I have been culling in fenced farms to get population down or to take the surplus and transform it into meat. I would never call that hunting it is slaughtering. I see no wrong in that we eat meat and if we like to eat meat we have to kill animals!



But on the way to the plate it is a huge difference how the “meat” has been treated and lived out its life.



But to cull elephants is a totally different thing then culling other animals. Elephants must be taken out as a hole heard and elephants are smarter than most animals and have a social system that is more complex.



Most hunters I have meet has been “real” hunters and would not like to be in on a cull for money but I have seen others also but I do not call those hunters. In Sweden we have a hunting law and the most important paragraphs goes like this.



“2
7 § The hunting must be conducted so that wildlife is not subjected to unnecessary suffering and people and property are not endangered.”




Ҥ 4 Game must be manage in order to

- Preserve the wild species belonging to the country's wildlife populations and the birds that occasionally occurs naturally in the country, Managed with regard to public and private interests and appropriate development of game populations.

Wildlife management hunting includes that with specific measures ensure that wildlife are protected and supported, and to adapt the hunting to the availability of game. In order that the measures are carried out, and the adjustment is made is the responsible landowner or hunter. Act (1997: 343)”

And the of course a lot of other laws that state the obvious that if you injure an animal you are responsible to track it and put it out without delay, hunting from vehicles is not allowed, hunting after dark is usually not allowed, shooting a female with small ones not allowed and so on

I think that hunting is also a wise use of a renewable natural resource and a good way to get meat, job opportunities, money to a local economy but also recreation for a lot of people.

To shoot of the back of a bakkie or let the meat rotten after an enormous cull is not hunting

I have a rule for my daughter (just turned 5) so she will learn respect for wildlife.
-If you kill it you eat it

She understands and she do not like to eat ants so she do not kill them but she is getting smarter and ask me why I don’t eat the mosquitos I kill (o:

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I found an interesting article by Graham Child about the elephants - it dates back to 2004.

 

One can only imagine how much more serious the situation is now - with roughly the same number of elephant set amongst a burgeoning poor rural population.

 

Read Here.

 

Another article worth sharing is one by Trevor Lane which featured in the Bhejane Trust newsletter..

 

read here for the exert of interest

 

the full newsletter is downloadable here

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