Ron Thomson was deeply involved in the management of both Hwange and Gonarezhou National Parks in Zimbabwe. He is the author of many books on conservation in Africa (http://www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za). He is an expert who has lived and managed wildlife. Listen to his words about elephant populations in southern Africa, the animal rights groups, and the attitude of American government agencies toward the environmental and conservation problems that Africa is experiencing.
Ivory Education Institute
As someone whose passion is wildlife management – and who has a special interest in elephants and rhinos – whose belief it is that maintaining biological diversity is the ULTIMATE and singlemost important goal of living resource management in a national park, I have to tell you that ALL our southern African national parks are horrifically overstocked with elephants – and that the elephants are busy turning their habitats into deserts.
In 1960 it was agreed by the National Parks Board of that time, that the Hwange National Park’s elephant stocking rate was no more than one elephant per two square miles (I still believe that is about right); and Hwange National Park is 5000 square miles in extent. Between 1960 and 1964, therefore, I was involved in trying to reduce the elephant population of Hwange from (then) 3500 to 2500 – by shooting every elephant that crossed the park boundary into the tribal lands beyond. Tim Braybrook and I shot hundreds of elephants during that period, but we never achieved our objective because elephants were all the time invading Hwange from Botswana – attracted by the 60 boreholed game water supplies we provided for our game in Hwange during that same period of time. And, in those days even, the elephants of Hwange were already rendering extinct several species of trees in the Hwange habitats.
Nevertheless, in 1960, lets say the ‘desired’ number of elephants for Hwange was 2500. Compare that to the numbers today: over 50 000. That means Hwange is currently overstocked with elephants by 2000 percent! The Gonarezhou is now carrying 11 000 elephants – and the habitats have been trashed. The 2000 sq mile Gonarezhou should be carrying no more than 1000 elephants. So the Gonarezhou is over 1000 percent overstocked. Kruger should be carrying no more than 4000 elephants; it is currently carrying between 16 000 and 20 000 (depending on whose elephant assessment you believe). So Kruger is 400 to 500 percent over stocked. Botswana is now carrying in excess of 200 000 elephants; yet in 1960, when irreparable habitat damage was first reported from Chobe National Park, the comparable count was (about) 7 500. So Botswana is carrying, arguably, 27 times as many elephants as it should – and its other wild animal species populations have crashed by up to 60 percent (so far); in some cases by as much as 90 percent. If you care to look at the situation in Namibia you will find the the same kind of elephant overpopulation situation exists there, too.
So where do these damned First World animal rightists get their propaganda figures from? And why is the IUCN et al, not more concerned about elephant habitat damage than they are concerned about elephant numbers? You NEVER hear IUCN so-called “experts” talking about the state of the habitats. They only express positive comments when elephant count numbers are UP; and dismal forebodings (about extinction) when numbers are DOWN. The IUCN is worse than the animal rightists! Elephant population numbers and the health of elephant habitats go hand in hand. They should be considered as one entity. Don’t these people understand ANYTHING about the principles and practices of wildlife management? The world has gone crazy with its concern about the predictions of elephant extinctions contained in the animal rightists’ false propaganda. Do the figures I have quoted give you any reason to believe that the elephant, as a species, is facing extinction? Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet in America – from Barack Obama’s office down through the governments various administrations – everybody is going cuckoo over the possibility. Aren’t the people of America normal, thinking and intelligent people? Don’t they understand that the animal rights movement is a confidence industry. The purpose of them propagating such disinformation is to make money – vast amounts of money – from the gullible public.
And all these people are now telling Africa HOW it should manage its wildlife. That idea is preposterous! These people should keep their hands off Africa!