While in India it is unthinkable to see beloved elephants as a source of crop damage, their rising population in African countries is a huge problem. Elephant herds can cause substantial losses if they enter farms.
In fact, in 2008, the South African government lifted the moratorium on the culling of elephants. At the time, the environment minister, Martinus van Schalkwyk, said that culling would be considered only as a management option of the last resort.
African farmers see the elephants as giant rats and worse. According to economists Erwin H. Bulte and G. Cornelis van Kooten, 'One elephant annually consumes as much forage as required to bring 4.7 cows to full maturity. Farmers regularly die defending their crops from elephants.'
When he was director of Kenya’s Wildlife Service, David Western explained: 'Elephants are the darlings of the Western world, but they are enemy number one in Kenya. The African farmer’s enmity toward elephants is as visceral as Western mawkishness is passionate.'
This antipathy can be overcome only if saving elephants provides people with a monetary benefit. According to analyst Peter Fitzmaurice, 'In parts of southern Africa today, damaged land and crop losses are not only tolerated, but villages are doing their best to guard against poachers. This surprising change in behaviour is due to the proliferation of government programmes that dispense licenses to villages, enabling locals or paying hunters to cull an allotted number of elephants each year. This protects the crops and the farmers can also sell the ivory to the state for income.' In these areas, poaching is down and some farmers have turned their marginal farms into game reserves.