Two elephants have been rescued instead of put down after breaking out of the Balule Private Reserve, bordering Kruger National Park, on Wednesday, 10 February.
The two young bull elephants had then crossed the main R40 road, trashing their way through fields of lucern, thereafter breaking into Makalali Private Reserve, destroying 10 fences and gates – as well as threatening the security of the fenced buffalo breeding programme.
Michelle Henley, Head of Elephants Alive said the organisation had to act quickly to work out the logistics of how to relocate these two bulls, back to Balule, some 40kms away – since they were now officially classed as problem animals, and so could legally be shot. Added to this the entire operation would require a serious amount of funding – estimated to have cost R120 000 in total.
“It was too dangerous to try and herd the elephants by a helicopter from above, as this would involve the elephants having to cross back over the main road. Instead, reinforcements were called for – and two flat-bed trucks, equipped with cranes and accompanying manpower were dispatched from Nelspruit,” Henley said.
Capture Wildlifevets also came into assist.
After several attempts, the helicopter finally located one bull, and darted him.
According to Henley, it then became a race against time, trying to manoeuvre the flat-bed truck to the spot where the bull had gone down. It was impressive to watch the Capture Team quickly and efficiently rope and hoist the unconscious bull onto the back of the truck, – carefully positioning him as safely as possible.
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Then began the journey back along the highway, with the elephant roped onto the back of the lorry – an incongruous sight for fellow motorists.
Safely back at Balule, the bull was hoisted gently onto the ground and was back on his feet within minutes of the antidote being administered.
The second bull took another day to be found – but he too was successfully relocated, back to Balule – now with its fences reinforced.
Trucking elephants is an impressive logistical feat, thanks to the professionalism of Capture Wildlifevets, the support of Makalale Reserve who allowed time for the elephants to be relocated, rather than shooting them – despite their fences taking a battering – and the dedication of Elephants Alive.