Culling Elephants And Seals As A Mechanism For Population Control


The act of culling elephants for their ivory teeth and seals for their furry skins has become a frequent occurrence in our modern day and time. Herds of elephants are closely monitored to regulate the resources they use and how much of that specific resource they use. Should elephants over-use these resources within a certain habitat, they are either moved to another park or culled. Culling these elephants are usually the primary option wildlife conservationists make use of as other parks may already contain large herds of elephants and over-population has to be avoided as much as possible. Namibia’s Cape Fur Seals are subject to the act of culling as a mechanism to control their population numbers. Along the coastline of Namibia, Cape Fur Seals are predominantly seen in large colonies, stretching all the way from Luderitz in the South up to the famous Cape Cross in the northern most part of Namibia. These seals are culled mainly for their fur, but also for material reasons such as the usage of their body oils and leather.

This task will contain more information and insight with regards to the culling of these animals. Headings as well as Sub-Headings will be used to classify and order the information into individual sections, each dealing with different aspects of the above mentioned topic for both elephants and seals.

Elephant population control

Definition: Elephant population control refers to maintaining the number of elephant species within a certain area, ensuring that their population size does not exceed that which the environment they live in, can sustain.

How it is controlled: The elephant population in South Africa and Namibia is mainly controlled by relocation, contraceptive methods and lastly, culling. Culling will only take place as a last resort, should any of the other two options not be possible.

Who it is done by: These measures of control is mainly implemented by the governmental department, the Ministry of Wildlife and Natural Resources, although the physical work and control procedures are performed by professionally trained wildlife conservationists.

Reasons for culling: Wildlife Management Authorities often prefer that elephants are culled in one big campaign to get rid of an excess of elephants or because of human settlements and structures that are developing in the elephant’s territory. Furthermore, these animals are also culled for health reasons. If a certain herd of elephants are sick or have a contagious disease or illness, they are culled to prevent other animals from contracting the disease or illness which could affect the elephant population negatively and in so doing, cause an imbalance in the ecosystem.

Seal population control

Definition: Seal population control refers to maintaining the number of seal species within a certain area, ensuring that their population size does not exceed that which the environment they live in, can sustain.

How it is controlled: Seals are mainly hunted and culled to achieve population stabilization for their specific species. Seals are amongst one of the most populated marine mammals. Therefore they are culled and used for materialistic purposes.

Who it is done by: The government of countries with densely populated seal species often give the ‘go-ahead’ for seals to be culled. Employees working for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources who are well-trained are instructed to carry out these culling campaigns.

Reasons for culling: Seals are culled and used for their fur, flesh and fat. Seal fat is often used to fuel lamps, or to be used as lubricants, cooking oil and soap ingredients, etc. However, the main reasons for culling seals are to control their population and to use their leather for material processing. Moving these seals to less populated areas can be tricky and also very expensive as the equipment, transportation and manpower needed to do the job could sometimes be an issue.

Environmental impact of elephant population size

Causes for elephant over-population: Elephants often over-populate a certain area or given perimeter because they are not to free to roam and move around to different locations, rather than staying in one fixed or enclosed space. Elephants reproduce and although the babies are carried for up to 22 months, natality rates are always increasing and the elephant population just keeps growing. In a nutshell, the single biggest reason for elephant over-population is that these animals do not have enough space to freely roam.

Environmental impact of elephant over-population: The environment is often harshly impacted by over-population of not only elephants or seals, but also of other animals. In this case, if there is an excess of elephants in a certain area, they soon break out and ‘seek freedom’. While they are roaming outside of their natural habitats, they usually damage surrounding villages, crops, agriculture farms and pose a threat to human beings as they do not always know how to react when they come face to face with real live animal, such as the African elephant.

Environmental impact of seal population size

Causes for seal over-population: The exact number of seals found along the coast of Namibia and South Africa, as well as other parts of the world, is not yet fully known because the research project is underfunded. Equipment and resources which may be needed to make such a project successful does not exist yet because the number of seals on land and at sea have to be counted at the same time. One of the other reasons is that it is very expensive to conduct a census, therefore scientists have realized that it is senseless to conduct such a survey at the present time. All these reasons add up to the growing seal population, if something cannot be stopped from growing, it is going to continue growing. Same principle applies to seal populations.

Environmental impact of seal over-population: Seals are ranked among the top list of marine predators. They eat small fish, crustaceans, squid and some other species that fisherman catch too. Densely populated seal species or colonies have to feed themselves with seafood, they hunt and catch anything they can find. Fishermen complain that seals are big competition for them as they are believed to eat ‘all the fish’ the fishermen have to catch. If this is indeed the case, income generated by catching fish will decrease as there will eventually be nothing to catch anymore. This could then potentially result in unemployment, an unstable economy and an imbalanced marine ecosystem.

Justification for culling elephants as a mechanism for population control

Definition of elephant culling: The process of separating elephants for a specific reason, which is usually over-population, to exaggerate certain wanted traits or eliminate certain unwanted characteristics by changing the genetic diversity of the elephant population.

Ethical or Unethical: I believe that it is unethical to cull elephants even though their rapid population growth may soon become a very big issue. Over-population can be dealt with in the sense of using appropriate technological resources which is continuously developing and being modified. Elephants do not understand that their impact is seen as a threat globally, but we as humans are able to bring the issue of an over-populated elephant species under control.

How elephant culling can be adapted: Elephant culling can be adapted by giving the elephants more spatial range between National and Wildlife Parks, letting down some of the fences which enclose these animals could already help a lot. Another effective method could be to reduce the large amount of natural resources such waterholes, shade and food which elephants are used to when living within fenced off areas. Elephant culling can however still be used in the event that an elephant is troublesome or causing repeated extensive damages. It can also be used if elephants become sick or infected with disease and conservationists see that these elephants are really struggling to survive, they can then be shot down.

Justification for culling seals as a mechanism of population control

Definition of seal culling: The practice of killing seals by method of shooting, clubbing or suffocating with gases. This is done to restore normal seal population levels. Seals are abundantly populated and therefore conservationists have to maintain the balance in the marine ecosystem as it could potentially affect the economy in a very severe manner.

Ethical or Unethical: Although I do not support the killing of any animal species, not only elephants and seals, I do however feel that it is safe to say that seals are really over-populated, they reproduce frequently and in large numbers. Seal births are a regular occurrence and impact the other marine life too because they hunt excessively. Should this continue, marine life will soon become something we used to talk about - it will become extinct.

Economic and social impact of elephant culling

Economic: At the moment African economies are currently spending more or less R353 million per year to cull elephants. Game and Wildlife Parks also suffer tourist losses as these tourists feel offended by the act of culling. This of course impacts the economy as there is now less of an income flow into the economies, respectively.

Social: The social implications which are connected to elephant culling apply more to elephant herds itself than what it does to human beings. The successors of elephant species which were culled often deals with emotional heaviness and depression. Elephants are very emotional animals and have great memories, they remember if someone in their herd died and they mourn over that one individual. Thus; it is safe to say that the social structure is heavily affected due to culling as the elephants live with these memories for a long time.

Economic and social impact of seal culling

Economic: Seal culling in Namibia is a revenue generating practice, but is however not beneficial to the cullers. The revenue received has to be paid to the Namibian government in the form of Royalties which is then used to aid the country in infrastructure, mining, commercial logistics, etc. Culling companies pay revenue on immediate products gained from seals as well as final products gained from seals. Another economic implication could be lower fishing quotas because the seals need to survive if they are not culled, thus; they hunt and consume fish species that fishing companies and fishermen need to catch to generate an income. This then results in a lower turnover amount for the fishing industry, not only in Namibia or South Africa, but worldwide.

Social: Seal culling may be profitable in Africa and Canada, but it still comes with its own social implications such as export taxes, fines, tourism loss, etc. If seal products are exported to other countries, export taxes may fluctuate because exchange rates can change unexpectedly which may cause a very high export tax amount for the country and company. If more seal products such as genitalia, meat and skin is exported than the agreed quota, heavy fines may be issued and the industry will be affected heavily. Lastly, tourist levels may drop because foreigners are very sensitive to such practises. Some tourists may find it interesting while others find it repulsive, this may cause them not to return to visit the country again which will also directly impact the tourist income generated by the country.


Elephant and seal culling are both realities which has to be faced. It can however be improved or even eliminated completely, should the correct resource-based approaches be used. Animals are one of the biggest tourist attractions a country could possibly have therefore these different species have to be well looked after and preserved for future generations to come. Culling in itself still remains a population control mechanism which has now at least become a last resort option for conservationists. The population of different animal species will always develop and grow which is absolutely necessary for genetic variation to take place and ultimately for a new flow of genes and characteristics to be introduced. For this reason alone, I believe that we should try to reserve and look after our heritage to avoid the impact of extinction of these species.

13 January 2020
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