Economic impact assessment of sustainable management options of the elephant population in the Kruger Trans-frontier Park

01 Dec 2008

The elephant population in the Kruger Trans-frontier Park is currently seen by many nature conservationists as beyond sustainable levels. Wild-life supporters are of the view that the elephant population should be sustained. Ecologists warn that over-population of the elephant population is putting too much stress on the environment, which may make it impossible to sustain other plant and wild life forms in the long run. The paper has as its main aim to evaluate Environmental (Ecological), Cultural, Economic and Social dimensions of sustainability using Economic Impact Analysis to appraise different options of managing the elephant population in the Kruger Trans-frontier Park. The authors believe that this research would contribute greatly to the debate in other parts of the world. If not managed properly, an overpopulation of elephants often leads to environmental degradation. Such degradation could lead to a loss in ecosystem function (indirect use value), which not only implies a loss in ecosystem productivity and resilience, but also the need for ecosystem restoration. The sometimes irreversible damage, such as the extinction of other animal and plant species caused as a result of overpopulation of elephant, is a direct cost to the environment and society. This cost is not reflected in, for example, the value an international tourist derives from viewing elephants in the park or protected area where the damage-causing specie lives. Studies undertaken thus far, are mainly based on an economic valuation of the elephant in relation to economic variables that are quantifiable, and also mainly under very limited assumptions. These are but some of the important issues considered in this paper in order to derive Best-Practice appraisal methodology. Although the authors suggest a cost-benefit analysis, it only offers very limited appraisal and the authors therefore argue in favor of a much more rigorous partial equilibrium analysis.