South Africa has lifted a 13-year ban on killing elephants, despite an outcry from conservationists and animal rights activists.

The government earlier this year authorized the move, which took effect Thursday, as a way of controlling the rising elephant population, which has more than doubled since 1995, to 18,000.

In related news, a conservation group says 14 elephants have been illegally killed during the last two weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park.

Wildlife Direct says in a statement released Thursday that rebels, soldiers and local villagers killed the elephants.

The group blames the surge in poaching on the liberalization of the ivory trade being pushed by South Africa, and the increased presence of Chinese operators in the area who feed a demand for ivory in their home country.

The park was estimated to have an elephant population of 350 as of 2006.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.