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South Africa lifts 13-year ban on killing elephants

May 2, 2008 |  9:04 am

Elephants_in_south_africa

South Africa lifted a 13-year ban on killing elephants Thursday, a move conservationists warn could encourage poachers to slaughter the animals for ivory and threaten dwindling populations elsewhere on the continent, the Associated Press reports.

Elephants -- once on the verge of extinction in some parts of South Africa -- are flourishing, with the population there growing more than 5% annually in recent years as a result of a well-managed national parks industry.

South African authorities want to keep a lid on their burgeoning numbers and protect the elephants' viability. Killing elephants, which have no predators and can turn woodlands to grass and stubs in a matter of years, is the best way to control the population, South African officials say.

The AP reports that conservationists worry about the repercussions of South Africa's move.

In war-ravaged Congo's Virunga National Park, for example, 14 elephants have been killed since mid-April by soldiers, militias and villagers -- an upsurge in poaching that is "part of a widespread slaughter across the Congo Basin" of Central Africa, according to Dr. Emmanuel de Merode, director of the conservation group WildlifeDirect.

For the full AP report, a photo gallery and other stories on elephants, click here.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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