Many of you have seen or heard that the South African Government has taken some major decisions regarding the future management of the country's elephants. These are detailed in a document entitled the Norms and Standards for Elephant Management in South Africa. The good news is that from 1st May 2008 the capture of wild elephants for commercial exhibition purposes, such as elephant back safari industries or circuses, will be prohibited.

In his speech on TV the Environment Minister unequivocally stated that they were "putting the lid" on the elephant back safari industry and that although no existing operation would be shut down, all operators would have to abide by standards for the care of elephants. The Minister has included a provision for an appendix to be developed in 12 months for "Minimum Standards" for the existing 112 or so captive elephants. Furthermore, the Norms and Standards will also prohibit the import and export of elephants destined for captivity, and will prevent artificial breeding of elephants in captivity.

Joyce and ElephantVoices have been involved in the discussions surrounding culling and capture/training of elephants in South Africa over many years. In 2006 Joyce and Petter were among signatories on a statement on culling by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. Joyce has also been closely involved in the debate surrounding the capture and training of wild calves - first in the Tuli case, for which Joyce appeared in court in 1998 on behalf of the elephants, then in the Selati case in 2006. Most recently, Joyce was invited as an expert to attend a workshop in November 2007 held by the Environment Ministry to discuss the development of the Norms and Standards. She followed up with an open letter to the Minister.

The Ministry of Environment has agreed to many of the recommendations made. That they have prohibited the capture of wild elephants for the captive market, have prohibited the import and export of wild elephants destined for captivity, and have prohibited the artificial breeding of elephants in captivity is certainly a positive step for elephants. Furthermore, the Ministry has said that culling will be a management tool of last resort. Although the media is focused on the reopening of culling, we believe that South Africa's approach to elephants has come a very long way from the early 1990s.

The open process of discussion and the genuine change in outlook and opinions is a positive development, despite the fact that some conclusions of the document go against our wishes. The bottom line, in our view, is that until we, human beings, accept to draw real limits on our own population expansion and consequent resource requirements (and emissions), we will be forced into unethical practices. The culling of elephants is only one of many. Are we ever going to accept any limits on our behavior and use of resources?

Rumblings, Petter and Joyce