With barely a grunt, the powerful elephant yanked the trunk of the decades-old mopane tree out of the reddened earth of the South African bush. The party may soon be over, however. Yesterday, in a move that will anger armchair conservationists worldwide, South Africa said that it would reintroduce culling for the first time since 1994 to control elephant numbers, which environmentalists say are threatening the country’s game reserves. Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, announced the policy reversal after a year-long review. He declined to be drawn on how many elephants might be killed, saying only that figures of between 2,000 to 10,000 claimed by animal rights groups were "hugely inflated". He emphasised that the measure would be a final resort.