South Africa allows killing of elephants

Pretoria: South Africa said on Monday that it will start killing elephants in order to reduce their burgeoning numbers, ending a 13-year ban and possibly setting a precedent for other African nations. Environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the government was left with no choice but to reintroduce killing elephants "as a last option and under very strict conditions' to reduce environmental degradation and rising conflicts with humans. There will be no "wholesale slaughter,' he told reporters. The announcement follows months of impassioned debate, with some conservationists arguing for elephant killings to protect the ecosystem, and animal welfare groups outraged at the prospect of slaughtering one of the planet's most intelligent and self-aware creatures. South Africa has been hugely successful in protecting its elephant population, once on the verge of extinction in parts of the country. But it has become a victim of its own success. The number of elephants, which have no natural predators other than humans, is growing at a rate of more than 5% a year and is expected to double by 2020. The big white hunter in the 1800s brought Africa's elephants near to extinction. Now South Africa, Namibia and Botswana have booming populations because of conservation efforts, while those of east and west African nations are struggling because of large-scale poaching. AP