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Game Warden

Kruger Park forced to cull its wildlife

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Reports www.iol.co.za

The Kruger National Park has started culling hippos and its buffalo will be next. Although the park, which is one of the largest game reserves in Africa, received rain in March, there is not enough food for the animals.
William Mabasa, spokesman for South African National Parks, said that 59 hippos had been culled...


To read the full article click here.

 

We discussed South Africa's drought situation in this Safaritalk topic.

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Absolutely sickening...

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Very sad that the rainfall has been so poor this year. Many parks across Southern Africa face a similar problem.

 

Interesting though that the decision to cull hippos - and possible buffalo to follow - has not provoked anything like the outcry that we would have heard if it had been announced that a park had taken the decision to cull elephants.

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@@RichB

 

what exactly is sickening? Should SanParks let (perhaps even more) animals starve to death?

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Since when have humans ever made good decisions when it comes to the welfare and management of wildlife?

Wildlife doesn't need humans to decide their fate...especially when it comes to natural disasters/climate change etc.

Humans always think they know best when it comes to nature...right?...no actually very wrong...and I'm not just someone

who knows nothing about wildlife as I am involved with rehabilitation of native wildlife here in Tasmania..''.Rehabilitation'' not

destruction..San Parks in my mind are starting to become incompetent in their wildlife management..

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@@RichB you still didn't tell me (us) what the alternative should be

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Take any fences down and let the wildlife fend for itself, as opposed to murdering them...Wildlife has a way of taking care of itself in natural calamities and doesn't need humans to murder them to give them a helping hand..

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Posted (edited)

@@RichB

 

I don't know the exact analyses that went into the decision to cull hippos and buffalos in Kruger. But here is a plausible reason… there are four ungulate species in Kruger that are on the verge of local extinction: sable, roan, Lichtenstein's hartebeest and tsessebe. There are fewer than 200 sable in Kruger; there are fewer than 100 of each of the latter species in Kruger. Those four species are one whiff away from being gone. Hippos and buffalos, on the other hand, are plentiful in their thousands in Kruger. Now, suppose you are the chief warden running Kruger. You know that hippos and buffalos, both tremendous bulk grazers, will forage far and wide in times of drought and will outcompete the said ungulate species. Hundreds of them will die anyway. So, what do you do?

 

Taking the fences down won't do much… and it is extremely unreasonable to think that they could do that with a snap of a finger. Buffalos and hippos are only likely to forage far and wide, not migrate beyond the current fences. What of the people living on the boundaries of the park? Relocate them with a snap of a finger?

 

So, in this example, if the proverbial chief warden decides to cull in order to save the locally endangered species, is he a wildlife murderer as you say in another thread?

Edited by Safaridude
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~ By pure chance I spotted this post when briefly logging in to reply to several private messages.



My current circumstances are such that regular participation in Safaritalk isn't feasible. I hope that by sometime in August that might change for the better.



Presumably those who posted comments in this thread are far more fully informed than I am, therefore their comments carry the weight which my thoughts lack.



What I say may well be frivolous and off the point, given that I have little more than a few tourist visits to Africa to shape my perceptions.



If I'd read this thread and the news article posted by @@Game Warden anytime prior to several days ago, I'd have shaken my head in dismay at the thought of yet more culling.



Why? Because my instinctive reaction, shaped by any number of childhood experiences, has been to avoid any thought of ending animal life whenever and wherever possible.



Period.



Yet...



As I told both @@Peter Connan and @@Bugs in private messages this week, I finished reading a memoir which I purchased in Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport in late January, while waiting to board a flight to Hong Kong.



By the late Bruce Bryden, it's titled “A Game Ranger Remembers”. Mr. Bryden served as the Chief Ranger in Kruger National Park for much of his professional career.



I mention the book because it's had an unexpectedly profound impact on my thinking, opening my limited perspective to consider hitherto unimaginable possibilities.



Granted, Mr. Bryden was writing about events twenty to forty years ago, yet a number of his points remain salient under present circunstances.



Among much other evidence adduced, he noted that there were long pre-existing game migration patterns for various larger wildlife species, from elephants downward in scale.



When human national boundaries were imposed on what had been unfenced range, longstanding migration patterns were severely disrupted.



The creation of Kruger National Park, including the extensive fencing along the South Africa – Mozambique border, ostensibly to deter poaching raids, had a drastic impact on ground-based wildlife mobility.



The book explains how such disruptions, even when very well-intended, had unanticipated yet inevitable side effects, including the build-up of larger animal species in excess of the Kruger National Park's carrying capacity.



Were trans-national parks to result in the removal of fencing, that might in part restore migration areas, but ongoing poaching and displacement of refugees limits the removal of such barriers.



Hence Mr. Bryden explained the how and the why of culling decisions, especially with regard to elephants, hippos and African buffalo.



When I first read it, I didn't know what to think. As much as anything I felt unsettled to read how the protectors of wildlife also served as their executioners.



Yet as the 373 page book went on, I gradually understood why the Kruger ranger staff felt that culling was essential in the long-term interests of the overall ecological balance of the park, including its many threatened species.



By no means am I a credible voice, lacking any expertise whatsoever. Therefore my private musings are no more than the maundering of a would-be nature lover.



What's best or what's right is beyond my ken. Yet “A Game Ranger Remembers” has persuaded me that there may be situations and factors which result in very tough decisions being made.



Kruger National Park doesn't exist in a vacuum, but is part of the greater Lowveld, with villages, farms, small cities and private game reserves around it, as well as national boundaries.



The build-up of larger species into what amounts to situational overpopulation is a deeply unfortunate consequence of the concomitant overpopulation of the surrounding area.



Wisdom is sorely needed, which is ever in short supply. Balancing assorted interests must be a daunting challenge for Kruger National Park's contemporary professional staff and rangers.



I'm grateful for the discussion in this thread about this vital topic.



Tom K.


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Along with, i imagine, many others, one's first thoughts must be against culling, but even in an area the size of the Kruger, as soon as you put fences up, you are altering the "natural order" and whilst it must be a long term goal to attempt to restore ancient migration patterns that would allow wildlife to escape some of the effects of what is an unusually severe drought, culling may be the only answer at present It is surely better to have a Kruger where management decisions such as this have to be made than no kruger at all. @@Safaridude provides a very plausible explanation. As long as there is an evidence based reason, and no realistic alternative then culling may well be necessary

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Take any fences down and let the wildlife fend for itself, as opposed to murdering them...Wildlife has a way of taking care of itself in natural calamities and doesn't need humans to murder them to give them a helping hand..

There is evidence pointing to the likelyhood that early man in Africa wiped out the only predator capable of keeping pachyderm numbers in check (the sabre-tooth tiger).

 

When the Kruger was fenced, it destroyed the migration routes, and it's a well-known fact that thousands of wildebeest among others died against that fence.

 

However about 20 years ago the fence between Kruger and the APNR was dropped. Experts expected the migration in that area to re-establish itself, but that has not happened. Wildebeest is now almost extinct in most of the APNR reserves.

 

Another example is the Limpopo transfrontier park. This adjoins to the Kruger and is un-fenced along it's boundary with the Kruger, and yet there are almost no animals in it. They even tranported elephant from Kruger in there. Within a week, 80% of those elephant had returned to the Kruger.

 

The un-fenced areas outside the Kruger are all utilized, and in many areas much more over-utilized than the Kruger itself. Thinking that simply removing the fences will solve the problem is unfortunately a fallacy.

 

Furthermore you must understand that the majority of SA voters have no interest in conservation. If the fences were dropped, and the ellies did move out, this would bring them into direct conflict with the locals living outside the park, causing a huge outcry which would quite possibly mean the end of the Kruger. And in the shorter term it would make rhino poaching even more difficult to control.

 

While i agree that in trying to manage wildlife we will inevitably make many mistakes, we are here now and have already altered the system and any pre-existing natural balance beyond any possibility of recovering.

 

We have no choice but to actively manage if we want to have anything left.

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