By Sheree Bega
There is more to management of the elephant population than putting a bullet in their heads, writes Sheree Bega.
Johannesburg - Seven years ago, the elephants of the Kruger National Park were very angry with Dr Sam Ferreira. They defecated in the driveway of his home in Skukuza and shoved his car around like a toy at least four times.
Ferreira, a large mammal ecologist, had joined the Kruger’s team of conservationists in the midst of one the most fractious periods for elephant conservation: SANParks was locked in a hugely emotive debate over its plans to restart culling after a 13-year ban.
“That was also at the time they were starting the abattoir and the elephants were very angry with me,” remembers Ferreira, smiling. “But I haven’t had an elephant do that to me in years and it’s because the Kruger’s elephants are now in the space they need to be.”
And, after all the years he has spent shielding elephants, the khaki-garbed scientist, who sports a gold earring, still takes his guidance from the enigmatic, powerful creatures.
Don’t talk about culling. That’s because there’s a lot more to managing the elephants in the Kruger than putting a bullet in their heads, he believes. But between 1966 and 1994 that’s exactly what authorities did – killing over 16 000 elephants to limit numbers.
Ferreira is pleased that there has been a shift from the agricultural mindset of culling which has been “absolutely embedded in the SA psyche”.
Conservationists are far more interested in encouraging diversity, he says, and he is proud to be part of a team that is “thinking outside the box” about elephant conservation. More....