Authorities of SANParks (South African National Parks), a body responsible for managing South Africa's national parks, have recently been caught after killing 340 jackals in an experiment to reboost diminishing antelope population in two national parks. Conservationists have accused the perpetrators of scientific and ethical motives and of trying to hide the cull as an experiment. In the months of May and September this year, 132 jackals were killed in Karoo National Park, 73 in the Darlington section of Addo Elephant National Park, and 139 in the Kuzuko section of that same park. According to the authorities, the killings were part of a jackal research project. According to Bool Smuts, director of the Landmark Foundation who is involved in jackal research, stated that it was indeed a cull being posed as an experiment and that jackals are the only factors contributing to the downfall of the antelope population. In his words, there are many possible issues that could lead to the decimation and not just a pack of crafty opportunistic predators.
I feel that Mr. Smuts was right at what he said about the "research project" being a cull. Though jackals may not be considered apex predators like lions, they do play an important role in maintaining the ecological balance in South Africa. For example, in addition to small antelope, they feast on reptiles and invertebrates which may be perceived as threat by local farmers. Without jackals, the ecosystems of these two national parks where the killings had occurred this year will experience a great deal of ecological imbalance as the population of some species of organism (antelopes, reptiles, invertebrates, etc.) will keep growing and growing until they no longer will be able to hold such massive numbers. Thankfully, SANParks researchers have stated that the culling has stopped and are now aiming to monitor population densities of jackals and antelopes. And hopefully this way, the populations of both species will be recovered.
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