Conservation officials have been working feverishly with farmers and concerned members of the public to ensure the safety of two wandering bull elephants which have been at large in the Lephalale region of Limpopo for the past few days.
The elephants crossed over to South Africa from Botswana last Friday and appear to be heading home to safety after an estimated 200km round trip which took them on a meandering path south of Lephalale to the Mokolo Dam area before turning north again, almost retracing their steps.
They are currently approximately 10km away from the border on the Limpopo river and heading steadily towards it, with only five farms between them and home.
Limpopo Nature Conservation officer Gerhard de Beer, who has been resisting calls from some irate landowners to have the elephants shot, says that he has been pleasantly surprised over the last 24 hours by the amount of positive support local farmers and community members have been offering. ”By far the majority of the farmers are now in favour of the safe return of these elephants to Botswana,” says De Beer.
Sam Makhubele, responsible for problem animals in Limpopo, agrees with De Beer that the elephants are most likely headed home and that the best course of action is to leave them to it. Should the elephants not return to Botswana, private funding has been secured to capture and repatriate them.
“This is a win-win story and we are exceptionally happy that the Limpopo authorities and farmers in the area have come out in support of these magnificent animals,” says Yolanda Pretorius of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group. Adding “The route they’ve taken and the distance they have covered is of enormous scientific interest to us and we hope to do a follow-up project in this respect. Let’s hope that the elephants go back to Botswana without any more drama and without the need to put them through the trauma of being captured.”
Main Photo: (Francis Garrard)