Managing Hluhluwe-iMfolozi’s elephants
Elephant contraception will be a more viable way of controlling the population than culling or trans-location
5 hours ago
AS Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) nears its optimum elephant population for the park’s size and carrying capacity, limiting the rate at which these creatures breed has become crucial.
To this end, elephant monitoring efforts in the park have been stepped up, with WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) initiating the advancement of the project. Monitoring HiP’s elephants will provide essential data to support and strengthen Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife‘s management of the park’s elephants, as well as enhance a broader understanding of how best to manage elephant populations in a closed system.
At 96 000 hectares, HiP provides the best example of a medium-sized reserve which is fast approaching its ecological carrying capacity of 1 000 individuals.
Park management’s existing contraception programme involves darting adult elephant females from the air with contraceptives.
Should this method prove successful, it will become a viable alternative to culling and trans-location.
A key aim of the HiP Elephant Management Plan, drawn up by Park Ecologist Dr Dave Druce and others, is to ‘maintain the elephant population in a state that does not jeopardise the conservation of biodiversity elements, priority biological assets or the maintenance of ecological processes within the park.’
A keystone species, elephants have a disproportionate ability to alter their habitat and dramatically affect other species in their ecosystem.
Elephants require extensive ranges to maintain healthy populations and, as ecological engineers, they can be either a threat or an asset to biodiversity in a closed system.
Accurate monitoring and data collection is essential to elephant conservation and, while 18 of the park’s adult females are fitted with tracking collars, it has been two years since a monitor was employed and data collected.
WESSA’s Biodiversity Programme manager Chris Galliers has facilitated a resumption of monitoring to ensure close observation of the contraceptive programme.
Timothy Kuiper has been appointed by WESSA as an elephant research monitor in HiP.
His monitoring activities include building up the individual elephant photograph database and field ID kits, collecting data on herd demographics and family structure, monitoring elephant movements from GPS collar data, and assisting on the ground with contraception operations.
Initially lasting five months, this project will collaborate with Elephants Alive, to draw on expertise and ensure shared learning.http://zululandobserver.co.za/105364/ma ... elephants/