Cape Town - The Kruger National Park received a lot of flack from wildlife lovers over the past month, after announcing that a 'harvesting' programme has been put in place to "alleviate pressure on sensitive areas" within the Park.
Kruger lovers have slammed the park saying they are misusing their role as wildlife custodians, under the illusion of restoring balance within the park.
But now, SANParks has responded to the public outcry, saying the decision to cull some large herbivores was not a lightly considered one. "This is not a 'sneaky reintroduction of culling by SANParks' as put by some in their opinion," Lesley Nyawo on behalf of the Kruger National Park, says.
"Kruger National Park is managed according to an approved management plan that makes provision for both biodiversity management and sustainable resource use.
"Part of the process of drafting this plan was an intensive public consultation process," Nyawo says. "It is practically not possible to consult the public on each and every management action implemented."
The accusation that SANParks was trying to cull animals in a cunning manner came after the Kruger released a statement saying the "drought is having an unprecedented impact on human well-being with an estimated 22 million persons in Southern Africa in need of some assistance".
With the culling, then, Kruger officials are trying to swat a few proverbial flies in one go - restore the needed balance of the sensitive ecosystem in the park, but also help feed the communities in surrounding areas.
The culling of the hippo was also deemed necessary by the Kruger in a bid to save valuable and diminishing water resources, which they said were being polluted by the hippos' poo.
READ MORE HERE: Kruger Culling: Beyond hungry neighbours and bulging biomass
Despite the park's size, it is still an enclosed and protected area, and overcrowding without aggressive predators (humans) can be damaging to the Kruger on a broader scale.
"The purest way of allowing natural attrition to take its course is not always ecologically the best, especially if populations are unnaturally high due to man-made influences," SANParks says.
Regardless of the rationale behind it, members of the public are outraged by the 'harvesting', which they say will have many negative long-term effects.
William Scrooby writes on the official SANParks - Kruger National Park Facebook page that the culling is a "slap in the faces of some of the best scientific minds in the world working in Kruger. It's undoing 20 years of progress in one political sweep! Expect a mass exodus of these wonderful employees amongst all the other negative impact this "well thought through" decision will leave in its wake!"
What to read next on Traveller24:
- #ShockWildLifeTruths: Elephant poaching on the rise in the Kruger
- Kruger Culling: Beyond hungry neighbours and bulging biomass
- Kruger Controversy: Social media shaming won't do any good without proof