Elephants face slaughter in Save Valley

ABOUT 300 elephants and some lions could be culled — reduced in population through selective slaughter — in the Save Valley Conservancy amid reports that the large number of animals at the conservancy in the South East Lowveld of Zimbabwe is destroying the area’s biodiversity in the wake of the El Nino-induced drought that has hit the country.

Wongai Zhangazha

The planned culling has sparked a war-of-words between range owners and some militant conservationists.

Zimbabwe Wildlife Conservation Taskforce chairperson Johnny Rodrigues said he was convinced the animals were being culled as part of a ploy by range owners to force America to reverse the ban on ivory trade and trophy hunting. Europe is considering a similar ban. He said the culling of the animals was shocking and a gross infringement of animal rights.

Culling involves reducing the population of a wild animal by selective slaughter. It is usually done by sedating selected animals before shooting them.

However, Save Valley Conservancy vice-chairperson Wilfried Pabst, a German national, in a telephone interview this week said culling would only be a last resort.

He said the conservancy was in a dilemma with what to do with the increasing number of wild animals, but was considering various options, including translocation before culling.

“I understand that 300 elephants are being culled and it’s something that’s being carried out now by different ranches in the Save Conservancy. It’s really surprising that people can kill such a big number of elephants claiming that elephant population is too high yet the estimates are so secretive and also vary. These are people who want to try and give this picture to America that the banned trophy hunting has left them with no choice, but to kill these animals,” Rodrigues said.

“Instead of trying to raise funds to translocate these animals to probably Gonarezhou National Park, they decide to cull the elephants. What is going to happen to all the meat, how about all the ivory considering that we successfully lobbied for a ban in ivory with America? The state should be responsible and take action.”

“While it was expensive to transfer the elephants from one area to another with the cost of one elephant being at most US$10 000, this culling should be stopped and funds should be raised to transfer the elephants,” he said.

Asked to comment, Pabst described Rodrigues as a loud-mouthed person who was failing to provide solutions to conserving wild animals.

“Yes we have too many elephants, but there is no culling that’s taking place at the moment. Rodrigues invents all kinds of stories, he is just ill-informed. The question that needs to be asked to him is what has he done to protect wild animals? He always complains, but why doesn’t he offer any solutions. Bubye recently said they are finding difficulties in managing lions, and were considering different ideas of what to do with 200 lions but did he offer any solution, it is just complaints,” he said.

“What we are considering at Save Conservancy is a translocation of the animals to other areas. I can’t get into details about it until the deals are generally concluded. If the transactions are sealed there will be translocation maybe in Zimbabwe maybe not of a variety of animals’ elephants and lions included. People need to consider that there is drought and there are too many animals that are causing a strain on the plain. So we are trying every avenue here we can to make sure we save the animals. Who knows maybe sometime next year we can consider culling some of the animals.”

Save Valley Conservancy measures about 3 400 square kilometres and was formed by combing 24 adjoining farms.