Simon Bloch
May 5th 2020

DA spokesperson on Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Heinz de Boer, has called for an urgent portfolio committee investigation into the state of affairs at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife after a section ranger yesterday shot and killed a mature elephant bull that had wandered out of the province’s flagship Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park (HiP). “It is indeed a sad day for conservation when protected species like elephants are shot dead by Ezemvelo. They are part of our Big 5 wildlife heritage, and Ezemvelo is supposed to protect these magnificent animals, not kill them” he said.

According to the writer, the park’s management had already been made aware by 10 am yesterday morning that a large tusker had gone walkabout beyond the park’s perimeter fence-line, and was heading towards a stretch of land between the Gwanzi pineapple farm, and a community homestead area that is surrounded by thick vegetation. The fencing around Natal’s flagship park has been in a state of decay for years, and more recently became the reason for EKZNW’s high court action against a Mpumalanga fencing contractor after a service repair contract turned sour. Several Ezemvelo employees were also dismissed as a result of an investigation.

But critical questions remain unanswered as to why it took five or six hours yesterday before a helicopter was dispatched in the late afternoon, to turn the pachyderm around from the air, and drive him back towards the park. By 4pm in the afternoon, with the sun already sinking and casting long shadows over Zululand, the chances of a successful rescue attempt were dimming, considering the fourteen and-a-half kilometers of bush-covered terrain it would take to push, guide and follow the elephant back to the park from the air.

So when the chopper finally arrived at the location where the giant mammal had been tracked down, and hovered above the animal’s massive frame, the lone bull’s fate had already been decided. “Why the slaughter”? “The elephant got out, and was dealt with” came the official response to my question: A local familiar with the area surmised: “Looking at the terrain and distance the elephant had traveled before it was shot, I calculated it had probably been outside the park’s boundary longer than just a day”.

“The sad reality is that Ezemvelo management has lost control of its parks, while relations with nearby communities remain at a low point. Ultimately, it’s the very animals who pay with their lives for the failings of Ezemvelo” De Boer continued. Last August, De Boer called for a moratorium to be placed on the shooting of any of the Big 5 species, after a public outcry erupted after the authority tracked and killed 10 lions that escaped through the parks fragile and compromised fencing.

“There needs to be a moratorium on these killings until there has been some kind of consultation with the provincial portfolio committee. This is meant specifically to assess these kind of situations before any of these animals are shot” De Boer added. “I’m well aware there are instances where dangerous animals escape from the park, and that drastic measures need to be taken to preserve human life before these situations get out of hand. “However, from what I’ve heard about yesterday’s case, it seems there was too little done, too late.

“I will be taking this matter up with the MEC at the portfolio committee meeting which takes place online today. We need to revisit and discuss procedures to be followed in cases of escaped dangerous animals, and the optimum responses by Ezemvelo to these situations. “I am also aware that there are ongoing investigations into the rotten tenders at Ezemvelo, and the fencing fiasco that has dogged HiP over the last eight years. “Alternative sources of funding need to be found to financially empower Ezemvelo to repair and maintain the fences, and ensure these operations are functioning properly at all times.

“I will also be asking Ezemvelo to give us a full report on the escape of this elephant, and the decision that was made to end its life” De Boer added.

Original article: https://www.facebook.com/276640799057143/posts/2959147557473107/