Sustainable tourism in a national park is only possible when it is constructed on a stable ecosystem – and game reserves carrying excessive numbers of elephants are not stable.
Black rhinos living in game reserve where excessive and uncontrolled elephant populations exist, will become extinct – due to habitat change alone – without a single poacher’s bullet ever being fired.
Managing a game reserve for biological diversity requires that even its most sensitive habitats be protected and maintained; because animal and plant species are especially adapted to specific habitat types.
In Kruger National Park “more than” 95 percent of the top canopy trees in its once very extensive woodland habitats have been destroyed, by too many elephants, since 1960. Consequently, huge volumes of understory habitats have disappeared, too, with a massive loss in biological diversity.
When SANParks tells you that the massive increase in elephant numbers since 1960 has not caused any species losses in Kruger National Park, the public has the right to ask them to explain how that is possible when, in the same breath, they admit that 95 percent of the game reserve’s woodlandhabitats have been completely destroyed by too many elephants.
When an elephant ring-barked or pushed over a single tree, all that tree’s several layers of understory plant communities – which were dependent on various degrees of under-the-canopy semi-shade conditions for their existence – were exposed to direct sunlight; and they all died out right down to ground level. And when 95 percent of all the woodland complexes in Kruger National Park were so wiped out, we have to presume that, when those big trees fell, they took with them into eternity, all the plant, mammal, insect, bird, and reptile life – that once lived in the continuous canopy habitats of the once extensive woodlands; and that existed in the very special semi-shade understory habitats, too.
Simply put, Kruger National Park has been carrying far too many elephants for far too long.