Unlike other parts of Africa where elephant stocks have dwindled to dangerously low levels due to poaching and a loss of habitat, South Africa has seen its populations steadily grow through conservation, with the country pressed for room to house the massive animals with hefty diets.
KwaZulu-Natal province, in the southeast, is looking to expand a project running for more than a decade where elephants populations have been controlled by injecting cows with a vaccine that triggers an immune system response to block sperm reception.
“Slowing the growth rate will allow time to be gained to achieve other biodiversity objectives, such as land expansion, without having to cull the elephants,” said Catherine Hanekom, an ecologist for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
South Africa, which had just over 100 elephants nearly a century ago, now has more than 20,000, studies said.
The overpopulation problem is the most dire in neighboring Botswana, home to at least 133,000 elephants, where vast forests have been lost to satiate their appetites.