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Elephant status quo in the current NDF

Elephant are listed as ‘protected’ in terms of the TOPS Regulations. They are accordingly “indigenous species of high conservation value or national importance that require protection.”

Elephant populations in South Africa are listed on Appendix II of CITES for the purposes of trade in trophies for non-commercial purposes only.

There is no current final published NDF for elephant. The Summary Report: Non-detriment findings made by the Scientific Authority published on 5 April 2019 indicates that a draft NDF dated December 2015 was to be submitted to the Minister for her to publish for public input.

However, it also notes that there is a “growing market for the trophy hunting of large-tusked bulls” which “could decrease the average tusk size of elephants within South Africa and potentially result in a loss of genetic diversity. Over exploitation of older bulls may socially disrupt elephant populations. Furthermore, the hunting of females has behavioural consequences not only for the individual’s offspring but for the entire family unit. It is therefore recommended that guidelines for the trophy hunting of elephants be developed.”

The NDF also found that the then current offtake of bulls as DCA from the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA) elephant population exceeded the 10 trophy bulls that could be harvested sustainably per annum for the entire population (inclusive of Botswana and Zimbabwe). It therefore recommended that DCA or hunting trophy removals from this population in South Africa be reduced to no more than 5 bulls per annum, while the offtake from the entire GMTFCA elephant population must be addressed.

The NDF noted that the Scientific Authority was aware at that point of increased poaching of elephant and the illegal trade in ivory in other parts of Africa and indicated that it would review the NDF assessment “should the number of poaching incidents in South Africa increase.”

There has in fact been a well-documented, marked increase of elephant poaching in South Africa. In 2012 two elephants were killed for their ivory in South Africa’s flagship Kruger National Park. In 2015 twenty- four elephants were killed for their ivory. In 2016 forty-six elephants were killed for their ivory. In 2017 sixty-seven elephants were killed for their ivory. In 2018 seventy-one Elephants were killed for their ivory, and according to Minister Creecy, thirty-one elephants were killed in the Kruger National Park in 2019. These figures demonstrate the intentional targeting by organised criminal syndicates of elephants in eastern South Africa, specifically in the region bordering Mozambique.

The NDF argues “that local and international trade in elephant poses a low and non-detrimental risk for the species in South Africa. The species is well managed in South Africa and the Scientific Authority does not have any current concerns relating to the export of elephants in accordance with Article IV of CITES.”