An Open Letter to Glenn Phillips, Managing Executive, Kruger National Park

"The Only Constant in Life is Change” Bertrand Russell

Hello Glenn

If Dr. Tjol Piernaar was here today he would say, "I left you with a sound elephant management plan and you have ignored it at your own peril".

In the 70’s and 80’s, Kruger Park pursued a policy of maintaining the elephant population at around 7,000 animals.

Their focus was on Kruger National Park and they did not take the private reserves on the western side of Kruger into account. These private reserves including Sabi Sand, Manyelletti, Timbavati, Umbabat and Klaserie were fenced off by a vetinary fence. This fence restricted the movement of elephant.

Indeed in the 80’s, Londolozi actually purchased elephants from Kruger National Park and released them in the Sabi Sand. Today in the dry season, Sabi Sand supports in excess of 1,500 elephant.

All the reserves to the west of Kruger Park, are experiencing habitat modification which is now accelerating at a rapid rate.

From the elephant die off in the 60’s in Tsavo National Park in Kenya, it is well documented that the elephants destroyed the dense comiphora forests to the detriment of the black rhino and other species. It is also well documented that between 15,000 and 20,000 elephants died of starvation in the drought in the 6o’s in Tsavo.

The small reserves to the west of Kruger Park, are heavily invested in Eco tourism. I believe that a continued destruction of habitat, could be catastrophic for these small reserves and their Eco tourist businesses.

The Kruger National Park has, I believe, a history of good elephant management and it also has the expertise and the capability to manage the elephant population across the entire Eco system.

Many of the men who implemented the early management strategy are still around. Johan Kloppers, Ian Whyte, Dr Butch Smuts, Hugo Van Niekerk (Helicopter pilot) and Salmon Joubert would give their time and knowledge willingly.

I am appealing to you Glenn, to provide the leadership to come up with an elephant management plan for the entire region including the private nature reserves.

I would like to see you draw on the experience and wisdom of the above individuals and others, and form an elephant working committee which decides the strategy.

Recently we observed Malawi move 500 elephants and a capture of 70 elephants in the North which went to Mozambique. However I don’t believe that capture is the solution, the numbers are too high.

With exponential growth we could be looking at an elephant population approaching 50,000 in 5 years time.

All indications are with climate change, our rainfall in the region is becoming lower. If this is the case, then we have already exceeded our carrying capacity.

Therefore you and your committee will be faced with a decision to cull 2,000 elephants a year over a period of 5 years. It will be daunting to say the least!

I know you will say that the private reserves are beyond your jurisdiction. However you know as well as I, that elephants must be managed across the entire region.

The only thing I would do differently to the original elephant management plan is I would not allow the ivory to be traded.

Out of respect to countries to the north of us, who are experiencing high levels of poaching, I would implement a no trade policy.

Glenn you are the most knowledgeable and powerful man in the region. You have the man power, the expertise and the money. I implore you to provide the leadership.

Culling of large numbers of elephant is an emotional and difficult decision to make. However, if we as conservationists truly want to protect this last great wild area in South Africa, then we must face up and take the hard decisions.

If no leadership appears quickly, I believe that the small reserves will panic. They will move to crisis management and poor decisions will be made.

We need a Nelson Mandela to guide us through the next decade with a carefully thought out management plan.

Tread Lightly on the Earth John Varty

Co owner Londolozi Game Reserve Founder: Tiger Canyon Founder: JV Images Founder: Campfire Singer Founder: Wild Life Warriors

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