Elephants are found in a wide variety of environments ranging from grassland to savanna and everything in between. They even inhabit some desert landscapes, and South Africa’s indigenous forests teemed with elephants in days gone by.
The large amount of publicity that elephant poaching has received has completely overshadowed the booming elephant population in much of Southern Africa. Many experts and scientists believe extensive elephant numbers have already caused plant and animal communities to change and will continue to cause damage if something is not done.
South Africa’s largest protected area, the Kruger National Park, has an elephant population of just under 20 000 according to a 2019 census. At the current growth rate, their numbers could reach 23 000 in the next five years if conditions are favourable. In addition, the 75 000 hectare Madikwe Game Reserve’s founding population of 200 elephants in the early 1990s reached 1 200 just two years ago.
Due to political influence and pressure from animal-rights activists, elephant management in Southern Africa took a turn and culling was stopped in 1995. It is still seen as socially unacceptable to cull elephants, but the management of these giants, or their effects on the landscape, is crucial.