Cape Town - Two young elephants were shot in the
Komatipoort region close to the Kruger National Park after their herd was
reportedly terrorized by poachers across the Mozambican border.
According to the Mpumalanga Tourism &
Park Agency (MTPA), the elephants were from a herd that damaged farming crops
in the Coopersdal area. Louw Steyn, manager of MTPA's Hunting & Development
department, said the elephants were young and most likely fleeing from the
Mozambican side of the border.
SEE: Animal interactions: Elephant tramples tourists to death in Zambia
Video footage published by The Lowvelder show the two young elephants before they were shot.
According to farmers in the area, the older of the two were in a poor
According to Michele Pickover of the EMS
Foundation, the callousness of MTPA towards the two young elephants is
unacceptable. ‘If the elephants were trying to escape [poachers], and therefore
became separated from their families, [they must have been] severely
traumatized. It is then even more unacceptable that the MTPA did what they
MTPA has refused to comment on whether
there were any mitigation measures or alternatives considered before the
decision was made. An MTPA spokesperson confirmed to The Lowvelder, however, that the
elephants could not be relocated using a helicopter to chase the animals along,
‘because there was a calf in the herd’.
The killing closely follows a national
conference on Human-Elephant Conflict Management in South Africa, which MTPA
attended, which highlighted the importance of adhering to the Department
of Environmental Affairs Norms and Standards for Elephant Management.
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According to these, a damage-causing animal
(DCA) is only to be shot as last resort after alternative options, including
relocation, has failed. The DEA measures for dealing with DCAs is to ‘minimize
damage’ for both humans and animals. It also states that ‘the management of a
damage-causing animal must be proportionate to the damage caused’.
MTPA released a statement following the
shooting saying the elephants caused excessive damage to farming crops in the
area. But according to farmer Freddie Tecklenburg, damage to property where
MTPA shot the elephants was minimal. ‘They broke some of the twines in the old tomato
fields and stepped on dripper pipes. Thereafter they moved into the bushes,
where they were shot,’ he says.
Herman Badenhorst, general manager at
Mlambo Uvs on the neighbouring property, agrees that the damage was minimal.
The elephants crossed through the Mlambo property before being shot on Tecklenburg's
farm. ‘The damage caused was not enough to justify killing the animals,’ Badenhorst
said. ‘The young elephants knocked down some of the sugarcane and bananas as
they were walking through, but that was nothing to cry about’.
Dr Yolanda Pretorius, deputy chairperson
of Elephant Specialist Advisory Group (ESAG), says the required procedures for
killing DCAs is not always followed ‘as both resources and capacity within many
of the nature conservation departments are limited. This leads to not all
options available to deal with elephants breaking out being explored
thoroughly.’ She said DCAs may only be killed on site and without investigation
if they pose a direct threat to human life.
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Steyn, however, says the Norms and
Standards are only ‘guidelines on how to deal with problem elephants’. He said
no-one can determine how each and every case should be dealt with beforehand
and this is done at the authorities' discretion.
Pretorius pointed out, however, that ‘many
organizations like ESAG are willing to assist in organizing interventions alternative
to culling but often hear about these cases too late.’
In September this year, a similar
damage-causing elephant emergency was logged near the Kruger National Park. In
this instance, three elephant bulls escaped from the Associated Private Nature Reserves
bordering the Kruger. They damaged mango orchards and also affected human
infrastructure. Instead of being shot, however, the elephants were relocated in
elephant rescue launched by Elephants Alive, an organization specializing
in elephant research and promoting harmonious co-existence between people and
Dr Michele Henley of Elephants Alive said
at the time that damage-causing animals were often little more than
trailblazers caught between expanding human development encroaching on ancient
According to The Lowvelder, two more elephants which were part of the herd are
still outside protected perimeters, reportedly en route in a southern direction
to the Mananga region. According to MTPA, ‘these elephants will be dealt with
if complaints are received’.
(Source: Conservation Action Trust)
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