Swaziland's elephants were brought in from South Africa's Kruger National Park, the orphaned survivors of a series of culls in the 1980s and 90s. Today those orphaned elephants and their descendants are kept in separate enclosures within the Hlane and Mkhaya parks, surrounded by strong electric fences. And that, conservationists say, is the beginning of the trouble.
"You get problems with elephants if you enclose them in too small a space," Frank Pope, chief operations officer of Save the Elephants, told The Dodo. "They get too constrained and they do cause a lot of damage."
Swaziland is a small country - smaller than Massachusetts. The Hlane and Mkhaya parks cover roughly 54 square miles and 25 square miles, which is also small by the standards of African conservancies; Kruger National Park is bigger than the whole of Swaziland. And the elephant enclosures occupy just a fraction of that - just 6 percent and 19 percent, respectively, of the total reserves.
So "when Swaziland says there are too many elephants," Pope suggests, "it's likely the case that it's too small an area." Better conservation practices, Pope points out, call for larger spaces: opening corridors to connect elephant ranges, rather than fencing them in to confined safari parks.