Elephant conservation too successful, culling to begin

South Africa's controversial new plan to kill a small amount of elephants made headlines around the world this week.

The interesting thing is, South Africa knows this decision is controversial, and they don't seem to be making it lightly. One participant from a government panel on elephant control and told The Daily Telegraph:

"They may be conscious of suffering in other elephants, they may have a knowledge of the 'other' that puts them low down but on the path to some kind of self-consciousness. They are higher than most animals but lower than humans."

Elephant populations in South Africa have surged to 18,000 since the country banned culling back in 1994. But with too many elephants in the wild, and no natural predators to keep the population in balance, South Africa's environmental ministry says they now pose a risk to the area's entire ecosystem and its biodiversity.

Meanwhile, South Africa is also moving to ban the "capture of elephants for commercial exhibition facilities, such as elephant-back safari industries or circuses," a move that should make many animal rights folks happy. Not that the two issues balance out or anything.