Review Article

Who owns and is responsible for the elephant in the room? Management plans for free-roaming elephant in South Africa

Andrew C. Blackmore, Arie Trouwborst
Bothalia | Vol 48, No 2 | a2271 | DOI: | © 2018 Andrew C. Blackmore, Arie Trouwborst | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 June 2017 | Published: 07 June 2018

About the author(s)

Andrew C. Blackmore, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Arie Trouwborst, Department of European and International Public Law, Tilburg University, the, Netherlands


In 2008, South Africa adopted its ‘National Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephants in South Africa’. Concern has subsequently been raised as to whether these norms and standards apply to free-ranging elephant on land, which had not been enclosed with a fence with the express purpose of containing these animals and other game on the property. The application of these norms and standards pivots on whether the owner(s) of the property have taken possession of these animals in accordance with common law applicable to game, or have given effect to the provisions of the Game Theft Act. To address this concern, this article briefly explores the evolution of South African regulatory jurisprudence applicable to game, including elephant, and analyses the norms and standards in relation to international and national legislation and common law applying to elephants. The norms and standards are not applicable to unowned, free-roaming elephant. These norms and standards, therefore, do not fulfil their primary objective of uniform management of elephant across South Africa. This limitation of the norms and standards, therefore, needs to be considered when they are revised.


Elephant; Game; Common Law; Management Plans; Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAS); Norms and standards; Ownership; Public Trust Doctrine; Res nullius; Wildlife


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Crossref Citations

1. A brief review of the legal protection of vultures in South Africa
Lindy J Thompson, Andrew C Blackmore
Ostrich  vol: 91  issue: 1  first page: 1  year: 2020  
doi: 10.2989/00306525.2019.1674938