Cape Town - There is something extremely disturbing about watching one of Africa's most majestic creatures undergo a metamorphosis from a breathing, eating, walking, trumpeting gargantuan to a lifeless stuffed display piece ready to gather dust in some foreign hall. The Sunday Times
recently visited Highveld Taxidermists outside Pretoria to witness this process for themselves.
Apparently the creature was shot and killed by Ioan Niculae, a Romanian billionaire who founded agricultural company InterAgro, in Hoedspruit, Limpopo in February 2013.
Niculae is apparently a hunting fanatic and requested that his gigantic 'prize' be stuffed by a local taxidermist and shipped off to his home country when done.
Apart from the environmental dubiousness of the situation, the whole exercise is also an incredibly expensive and lengthy one.
According to the report, Niculae shelled out at least $40 000 (R438 210 at R10.93/dollar) to shoot the pachyderm and another $50 000 (R546 912) to have it stuffed and shipped to Europe. The entire process has taken Dieter Ochsenbein and his team of taxidermists seven months to complete.
However, it was slightly delayed as the elephant is only one of 19 other trophies, including a scene containing two lions chasing after a hartebeest, headed for Niculae's home.
Ochsenbein said that foreign hunters usually bring up to 10 animals at a time to be stuffed, but that their largest order from one customer added up to 400 animals.
While we have no doubt that this trade is a great economic boost to local industry, we can't help but feel slightly disturbed by the thought of endangered animals like elephants and lions succumbing to this fate.
According to the WED website
elephant numbers have dropped by 62% over the last decade, and they could be mostly extinct by the end of the next.
An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts, leaving only 400 000 remaining.
SA also recently lost two of her most majestic Big Tusker sons to the ravages of poaching. Tembe Elephant Park's iSilo died in April this year, they say of old age, but by the time his body was found, his face had been mutilated and enormous tusks hacked away by poachers.
He had lost all dignity in death.
Just a few months down the line, Tsavo East National Park in Kenya lost their Satao - the biggest tusker in East Africa - to poisoned spears.
Apart from their magnificent presence, as part of the Big Five, elephants are also of the utmost importance to South Africa's tourism industry, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors to our parks on an annual basis. We'd like to hear your thoughts about this. Tell us in the comment section below or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org