Conservationists move to save wandering bull elephants
Sharon Gilbert-Rivett
13 January 2015

Limpopo Nature Conservation officer Gerhard De Beer is working feverishly with concerned conservationists to save two bull elephants from Botswana currently trekking through the Lephalale region of the province.

The bulls apparently crossed the Limpopo river sometime last night and are currently south of Lephalale, north-west of the Mokolo Dam.

With the help of Yolanda Pretorius of the Elephant Special Advisory Group, a lecturer and researcher at the University of Pretoria, and with funding in place for the immediate translocation of the errant bulls, De Beer is fending off calls from irate farmers to have the animals destroyed.

“There is huge pressure from the farmers in this area to shoot the elephants who are breaking through expensive game fences as they go, risking potential losses of high value game species which may escape as a result,” says De Beer. “However, I want to make a plan to return the elephants to Botswana, which is keen to have them back, and am working with the Marakele National Park to see if we can’t capture, collar and house the elephants in their boma for a few days before getting things in place to return them to their home.”

SANParks’ senior GM of operations, Dr Nomvuselelo Songelwa, who is standing in for new CEO Fundisile Mketeni while he is out of the country, says that she must investigate protocols with Marakele National Park before being able to confirm assistance in the translocation, but time is of the essence.

“If we don’t get somewhere quickly with the plan to return these elephants to their home the farmers in the area are going to insist on them being shot,” says Pretorius. “We have funding in place to pay for the translocation and for the elephants to be collared, so that they can be monitored by us, as the fact that they have come across the border is of huge scientific interest,” she adds.

“I am doing my level best to save these animals,” says De Beer. “It is a relatively straightforward thing for us to return them to Botswana, so we just have to act quickly and calm the situation with the farmers in the area and get a plan in place as fast as possible.”

Main Photo: (Greg Willis)