A 31-strong elephant herd face slaughter after two of them killed a 45-year-old conservationist when he attempted to guide them to a reserve.
Even though the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed African elephants as vulnerable, the local government organization Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is still deciding whether to kill the elephants.
45-year-old Beyers Coetzee devoted his life to the elephants on the Mawana Reserve. He was close to securing a deal with landowners to increase the size to 40,000 hectares!
While guiding the elephants to a nearby reserve, he was trampled to death by two male ones.
“I was leading and Beyers was close by and had been setting off the crackers and I warned him the elephants were getting angry,” said reserve employee Thobani Masondi. “But he wanted to get them over the river into the safety of the reserve. I did not see the two elephants but I could smell them. Then they came out the bush from 15 metres.”
He added: “Everyone was running and I nearly collided with Beyers then I heard a thud as the bulls hit him and they had him. There was nothing that anybody could do to help him.”
It was confirmed that Mawana Reserve was investigating his death but hadn’t decided the fate of the 31-strong herd.
“We are in the business of conserving animals and a decision to destroy any animal is taken with a heavy heart and in most cases is done to prevent the further loss of life,” Musa Mntambo said.
However, sources close to the authority said: “The two bulls responsible are certainly likely to be shot dead and the death of this man is being seen as a reason for the entire herd to be culled but it is totally wrong.
“The problem is that the finance to fence the elephants in should be provided by the state but trying to get agreement or the actual finance in place is just a near impossibility.
“Their only hope is that somehow the money is raised to fence in a new reserve. The fact they keep escaping and causing damage has become a nuisance for the authority.”
Fellow conservationists are now trying to raise funds to construct 100km of fencing to make sure the elephants are safe.
Grant Fowlds, author of Saving The Last Rhinos, said: “This herd has been under threat for three years but is now in huge danger and we need the support of the public to ensure that this project to protect this valuable herd succeeds.”
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