Dickson P, Adams W M, 2009, "Science and uncertainty in South Africa’s elephant culling debate" Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 27(1) 110 – 123
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Science and uncertainty in South Africa’s elephant culling debate
Paul Dickson, William M Adams
Received 29 September 2007; in revised form 7 May 2008; published online 24 December 2008
Abstract. We analyse the debate about the culling of elephants in South Africa’s national parks. This pits the need to reduce elephant density and grazing pressure to prevent environmental damage against animal-welfare concerns about the killing of elephants. This complex debate is characterised by factual uncertainty and moral complexity. The procull storyline suggests that high elephant densities pose a risk to biodiversity. The anticull standpoint critiques this position as politically and economically motivated and lacking in adequate scientific support. Both procull and anticull positions draw on science as a source of authority, and on the precautionary principle as a framework for making decisions. They differ in their interpretation of the scientific evidence for serious impacts of high elephant densities, the relations between scientific, ethical, and economic arguments, and the way uncertainty and the idea of a precautionary approach are used. A decision to resume culling of elephants in South Africa was made in February 2008, but debate continues.
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