Conservation Biology

Thursday, March 01, 2007

ELEPHANTS AT KRUGER NATION PARK (KNP)

I visited KNP on the first and second of February 2007. I was with my group (Ecological informatics learnership students Pretoria CSIR), Nicklaus Kruger from University of the Western Cape (UWC), Laurie Barwell from Pretoria CSIR and Avinash, from
South African Environmental Network (SAEON).The main objective of the trip was to observe different type of animals found in KNP.


The KNP is the biggest game reserves in Africa, covering an area of 18,989 km² extending 350 km north to south and 60 km east to west (1). The KNP lies in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces; the Northernmost part of KNP is Zimbabwe and Mozambique on the East (1). The KNP is famous as African big five animals. The big five includes elephant, rhino, hippopotamus, leopard and buffalo (3).

The elephant belongs to the family of pachyderm under the order Proboscidea and class Mammalia. Elephants can live approximately 70 years. Elephants can reach the weight of above 7 tons

There are many elephants found in KNP. Elephants destroy vegetation in the Kruger National Park (KNP). Elephant need a lot of food - they can consume 200 kg of plant matter per day. Elephants exploit trees and shrubs of the park as they uprooted trees using its trunk Which lead to decrease in the number of trees. Elephants strip off the bark of the trees which result in the death of the trees because trees can not transport water and other nutrients to the leaves and stems. Elephants can change the tropical forest to be savannah forest. Elephants browse when grass production is low during dry seasons. As a result the elephant destroy biodiversity of KNP as they consumed large amount of plants (2).

I was told that, Elephants grow faster. Currently they lead to changes to vegetation of the park. I thought when the space is small for Elephants in KNP; elephant will become dangerous to other animals and tourist by attacking them. “I believe that”, after 10 years KNP will be unable to accommodate all the elephants found in the park.

Dr. Holger Eckhardt from KNP indicated that, Marula trees are rare because of elephants. Elephants are big and can disable electric fences, as they can break the boundary fence of the park and this will allows other big animals like buffalos to leave the park

An elephant specialist of KNP, Dr. Ian Whyte, told us that, there is no one who wants to kill elephants but they have the responsibility to balance the ecosystem.The management of KNP said that, their obligation is to manage and conserve biodiversity of KNP. They said that they will use elephant culling methods to minimize the number of elephant as they have conservation management that deal with it.

The department of Environmental affairs and tourism needs to balance the ecosystem and protect the park. There is also a need for the management to manage and protect the tourist industry and the community who live near the park. When we talk about conservation we need to focus on balance between plants and animals. 6The methods of selling elephants to other countries can work rather than killing them. The KNP face the problem of elephant if they do not come with the strong mitigation startegies to control elephant

1. Anonymous. 2007. Kruger National Park. [Online]. [Cited 2007 February 7]. Available from: http://www.iglusouthafrica.com/destination.cfm?destinationcode=KR

2. Anonymous. 2007. A Numbers Game: Managing Elephants in Southern Africa. [Online]. [Cited, 23 February 2007]. Availab;e from: http://www.nomadtours.co.za/article_2006-8-19_9.html

3. Husted. L. 2006. Elephant cull threatens tourism in Kruger[Online]. [Cited, 22 February 2007]. Available from: http://www.ecoafrica.com/news/elephant-cull.htm

Linette Netshiheni
CSIR
Pretoria
0001
Tell: 012 841 2133
Fax: 012 842 3676
tnetshiheni@csir.co.za
Weblog: http://tnetshiheni-linette.blogspot.com/

2 Comments:

  • You've covered some interesting stuff here. Unfortunately, it's not very clear...What does it mean to say "Elephants grow faster", for example?. Also, you say that elephants destroy biodiversity by consuming large amounts of plants...are you equating consumption with (local) extinction? And is the focus of your piece how elephants need to be managed so that other biodiversity can be conserved, or that the elephants themselves need to be conserved (something I'm picking up from the anti-culling aspects of your essay).

    Also, please watch your formatting...

    By Blogger NcK, at March 08, 2007 10:20 AM  

  • Indeed it was an interesting trip. Some few comment to your topic Linnet, on your second paragraph line number five you mentioned that KNP is famous as African big five and you included hipopotamus as one of the big five. The only big five animals that are well known at KNP are Lion, Elephants, Leopard, Rhino and Buffalo.

    The are many method of minimizing the overcrowed population of animals (elephants) such as transportation and contraception, why specifically do they want to use the culling method? because according to International Fund for Animal Welfare(IFAW)culling is a scientifically unsound practice that does not consider the welfare implications to elephant society as a whole.

    By Blogger Ramapulana, at March 08, 2007 11:55 AM  

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