by Hannes Wessels

With anger I reacted to the recent headline-news regarding the ongoing and contentious issue of whether to cull elephant or not cull them. We here in Africa have been informed that a US poll, conducted by the Remington Research Group for Humane Society International (HSI) revealed that three in four respondents considered it important to protect elephants from trophy hunting, 78% did not support the proposed culling (in Botswana) and 73% believed that if trophy hunting and elephant culls were started, Botswana’s image as a leader in wildlife conservation would be harmed.

What this tells us is that expert opinion based on the best available empirical research and pragmatic efforts to address very pressing wildlife and human related problems is now marginalised by American opinion makers. It would be of some relief if we were to believe the respondents in this poll were well informed of the dynamics of this difficult debate but I very much doubt that is the case. Just as millions of people have jumped to conclusions, without understanding the science or contributing factors, on the alleged threat of ‘Global Warming’, so does the moronic majority leap on to the anti-hunting bandwagon which millions rode with such gay abandon when the virtue-signallers of the world went apoplectic over the shooting of ‘Cecil the Lion’. Clearly, being anti-hunting in any shape or form is the fashionable place to be and few take the trouble to try and understand the problem better while fewer still have the gumption to dissent from the popular view when exposed to the facts. But what is even more infuriating is the fact that these people who are so happy to pass judgement, then have little or nothing to offer as a practical solution.

In the modern era, one of the most successful African conservation stories is ongoing in southern Zimbabwe on the ‘Bubye Valley Conservancy’ which is an 800,000-acre property reserved entirely for controlled hunting. As a result of the ‘Cecil the Lion’ debacle the lion population has multiplied to the point it has to be rapidly reduced because it is threatening the species diversity of the area and without hunters, the management is struggling for a solution. True to form, the owners have reached out to the anti-hunting community and asked for their assistance in removing and accommodating the surplus cats, but their pleas, I gather, have fallen on deaf ears.

For anyone seriously concerned with the welfare of the people, the environment and the wildlife of southern Africa, they would be startled by the statistics that cry out for serious attention and a realistic reaction. Amidst all the hysteria about elephant, few bother to remind themselves that real conservation requires the protection and maintenance of all plant and animal species-diversity, not just elephant, and elephants have a greater propensity to damage their environs than any other mammal, particularly when their numbers exceed the carrying capacity of their range. In a nutshell other forms of life have to pay a heavy price to accommodate a surplus elephant population.

While human populations and the concomitant demand for land continue to grow in both Botswana and Zimbabwe, so are their elephant numbers. One estimate coming from the Zambezi Society puts the elephant population of what is now known as Zimbabwe at a paltry 4,000 in 1900, when the country was very sparsely populated. Against a backdrop of a massive increase in the number of people, there are now over 80,000 and that is despite the culling of roughly 45,000 between 1960 and 1990.

Hwange National Park, which is now home to the bulk of the Zimbabwean elephant population, did not boast a permanent elephant presence until the arrival of the Europeans at the turn of the last century. They were at a loss as to what to do with an uninhabited wasteland unsuited to agriculture because of poor, sandy soils and a lack of water. A far-sighted decision was taken to turn it into a viable wildlife refuge through the creation of artificial water-holes drawing on subterranean water and the success was spectacular; too successful in fact and thus the present-day problem of too many animals.

Neighbouring Botswana, part of the same eco-system, and about which the present controversy swirls, is home to approximately 130,000 elephants, the largest in Africa, and parts of the country, particularly the Chobe area, are being ecologically devastated as a result of the over concentration of animals.

The important question that should have been asked of the people polled by the Remington Research Group is simple: you don’t like culling and you don’t like hunting so will you contribute financially to the only alternatives which are very costly; possibly sterilisation or purchase of new land prior to capture and relocation?  I suspect most of these people are liberals and like most liberals they are famous for having great ideas but always looking for someone else to pay for them. While they waffle on a man-made ecological disaster is unfolding.





11 thoughts on “To Cull Or Not To Cull?”
  1. “What this tells us is that expert opinion based on the best available empirical research and pragmatic efforts to address very pressing wildlife and human related problems is now marginalised by American opinion makers.”

    Agreed Hannes. And I also agree on your comment re liberals! And by way of illustration of how stupid, arrogant and utterly useless these liberal, armchair experts can be, see article below by John Condy which appeared in The Herald on 9/6/1997:-


    Editor – The British government has sent a delegation to the CITES conference with the intention of criticising our wildlife policies.

    When listening to any criticism, one first looks to the calibre of the critic. So let’s look at the track record of Britain’s involvement and interest in the past, with our wildlife.

    In the days of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland we built Kariba Dam. Then followed the biggest animal rescue operation of all time, Operation Noah.

    Rhodesia, on the south bank of the new lake, rescued by hand over 5000 wild animals from 1959 to 1962.

    The British government was in administrative control of the north bank of Lake Kariba. And what was their contribution to Operation Noah?
    It was not quite nil. They did rescue four tortoises and six chameleons. Perhaps the British government has some records.

    Not only was Britain inactive during Operation Noah, but they actually frustrated the operation by not permitting our boats to refuel at Sinazongwe. This meant that our boats had to go 75 miles back to Kariba to get fuel! They are now here to criticise us!

    We in Zimbabwe have a long and effective track record of wildlife management. We have led the world in several aspects of wildlife research.
    So why should we have to heed the political manoeuvrings of a lot of double standard armchair experts who live 9000 kms away?

    Dr. J.B. Condy
    Veteran of Operation Noah

    I challenge anyone to argue this one!

    Finally, I well remember during the Rhodesian elephant culling days one of our National Parks ecologists saying in respect of elephant culling, “As we don’t yet fully understand the ramifications of culling large numbers of elephants, we go by the principal of MINIMUM REGRET.” Simply put, this means rather cull than not, and allow the ecosystem to collapse completely resulting in irrecoverable veldt degradation plus the deaths of many other mammal species. Animals can be re-introduced back into an area but once the vegetation is gone, that’s it, end of story and we have a desert. I am no scientist but this makes perfect sense to me.

    1. Spot on….

      Once the habitat is gone…with lesser famous and equally important or more important) species it will be impossible to fix. Cull and deal with the fallout…

      Ensure the cull is dome humanely and professionally.

  2. Nice rant about a concerning topic unfortunately let down by your dig at Liberals in your concluding paragraph. No doubt the prevailing anti-hunting sentiment is part of the latest virtue-signalling outrage culture however misunderstanding African issues is hardly the sole preserve of the ‘Liberals’. Dare I say it, education on the topic is sorely lacking in the West.
    I can understand the moral recoil to trophy hunting to a degree – beaming smiles from hunters behind a carcass does seem a little barbaric when the scientific, biological and economic mitigation are buried in hunting magazines and conservation journals not readily accessible to the non-hunting public.
    Liberals to an overwhelming degree are pro-science so it does seem that the conservation and the hunting industry could do better to get this info out to the public via the school curriculum. No easy task certainly, especially when having to parry shock-journalism which relies on soundbites and misinformation or at minimum incomplete explanation.

  3. The economics of your argument are pragmatically accurate Hannes and the monies from hunting do support the big picture but on a personal note … anybody killing a healthy wild animal for the fun of it has got a screw loose … guy shoots a sleeping lion with a .458 and his PH says “congratulations” – the economics, I hear you, but it’s sickening. Wouldn’t it be so good if they went and hunted other hunters, guys with guns who could fire back and make the contest a level playing field?

    Your buddy Trump, instead of doubling the military budget could donate these funds to conservation, or the Kochs maybe, istead of funding hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the arguments against “alleged” climate change (try and tell that to Mike Bailey), could donate it to the noble causes you describe. But, being the driving cause of the much greater ecological disaster that is indeed unfolding, they would never do that. Even by 2050 when where the Arctic ice cap used to be is a huge shipping lane, I sense you and them will still be saying it’s a liberal hoax.

    1. There’s a lot about trophy hunting that is unpalatable but every day in Africa thousands of animals die slow, agonizing deaths at the hands of man which goes unreported. In a perfect world you would not need the money from trophy hunting but we’re far from there. I believe the world is susceptible to climate change but am not sure to what extent man is to blame and it’s a fact some of the more prominent individuals who were in the Al Gore camp were caught stitching up statistics to suit the points they were trying to make. Read ‘Watermelons’ by James Delingpole, he’s very well informed on the scams that go on in the name of conservation and ‘climate change’.

  4. I get this point.. I feel the same about uncontrolled human growth which is doing as much or possibly more damage to the environment.

  5. I remember a paper presented by Nat Parks in Rhod in the 60’s. One was on ecological damage caused by introduction of man made waterholes and the other (apropos this subject) on the intoduction of corridors – whereby Govt’s would supply and erect proper mine cable fences (one or two strand) – through farms, international bounfaries etc. Whereby elephant would pass. I remember snippets about creating employment such as guards at road crossings, fence maintenance etc

  6. Totally agree 100%, leave the ecology of Africa to the the higher IQ’s who understand the situation fully as they have to live with it and make a continued success of it. What do outsiders know in all reality nothing but virtue signalling and politically correct obfuscation?

  7. I say fuck them and deal with the issue at hand. These same do-gooders pointed fingers at Rhodesia defending itself against Communism and trying to make a deal with conservative black Zimbabweans are the same cry babies screaming blue murder at ZANU PF and Mugabe/Zbobgo

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