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Setback in battle to save wandering elephant bulls

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Efforts to relocate two elephants which crossed the border from Botswana into Limpopo province have received a blow with the news that Marakele National Park near Thabazimbi is unable to assist.

According to SANParks, strict conservation policies and protocols prohibit the elephants being housed inside the national park until paperwork for their repatriation to Botswana can be processed. Apparently, there is no elephant boma in Marakele in which to safely place the wandering bulls and, as such, they pose a possible health risk to the national park’s existing inhabitants.

“I am meeting with provincial conservation officials in Polokwane all day today in an effort to find a solution to this problem,” says Gerhard de Beer, the Limpopo Nature Conservation officer who has been working around the clock to ensure a positive outcome for the two bulls, who are currently ranging northwards in the Ellisras area, crossing through farms as they go.

“I am under extreme pressure from farmers in the area to destroy the elephants, which are causing damage to fences, so we need to make a plan as soon as possible,” says De Beer.

Private funding has been secured to foot the bill of capturing, collaring and relocating the elephants and Botswana is ready to receive them, says De Beer. All that is needed at this stage to secure a happy outcome for the animals is somewhere for them to be placed for a period of a few days following capture so that paperwork and permits can be organised. “We need to find somewhere with an elephant boma or an area where the elephants can be securely held for four or five days before we translocate them back to Botswana,” says De Beer.

Yolanda Pretorius of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group, who is also a lecturer and researcher at the University of Pretoria, says that she would like to conduct research on the elephants as there is a lot of scientific interest in why they crossed the border into South Africa.

“We’d like to understand this behaviour a little better and in doing so can hopefully help to set up protocols to more effectively deal with wandering elephants like this without having to shoot them in future,” she says.

“With funding ready and waiting for the capture and relocation of these elephants, I would like to urge local farmers to be patient and work with us for a positive outcome in this case,” says De Beer. “The elephants are moving northwards now, and may just head back to Botswana themselves, which would be great because I just want to get these elephants back home.”

Main Photo: (Michael Lorentz)

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