- Animal rights activists have condemned South African government's readiness to legalise culling to control the rising elephant population.
Describing the measure as cruelty to elephants, the activists threatened to take legal steps, boycotts and protests against South African government if it goes ahead with its plans.
The threats were fired in response to an announcement by South African Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk that a 17-year-old moratorium on elephant culling will be lifted after 13 years of enforcement.
Since a ban on culling was enforced in 1995, South Africa's elephant population have reportedly grown from 8,000 to 19,000.
"There are few other creatures on earth that have the ability of elephants to connect with humans in a very special way," Schalkwyk said.
The capture of wild elephants as elephant-back safaris has become a controversial issue in South Africa.
But the government said it will ban the practice, better manage elephant enclosures, translocation as well as use elephant contraception.
"Our simple reality is that elephant population density has risen so much in some southern African countries that there is concern about impacts on the landscape, the viability of other species and the livelihoods and safety of people living within elephant ranges."
In a statement, the government said the measure will be taken only as a 'last resort' and that it will be acceptable under strict conditions.
"Culling will only be allowed as a last option and under very strict conditions," he said, adding that debate around the issue has raised "strong emotions."
Schalkwyk said the culling option, which takes effect from 1 May, has been adopted after the government had conducted consultation "with all shades of opinion."
He said the government is sensitive to the interest of the "balanced biodiversity or people living in proximity to elephants" who often complained of the threats of hungry and thirsty elephants.
"How much like us do elephants have to be before killing them becomes murder?" Minister Schalkwyk asked.
The government claimed to have received several complaints of cruel training practices meted out to elephants.
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