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Stay of execution for Riff Raff… for now

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The life of an elephant that faces being shot for being a ‘nuisance’ is hanging in the balance as animal campaigners in South Africa fight in court to keep him alive. 

Riff Raff’s habit of trampling fences to gain access to land that belonged to him for more than half his life has led neighbours of his reserve to apply to have him killed.

A fence was erected in the middle of his home in the The Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve in Limpopo during one of the region’s worst droughts – cutting him off from a water source and land that he had used unhindered for 13 years.

The bull elephant faces being shot to death despite the fact that campaigners from Humane Society International/Africa and Global Supplies have found him a new home 250 miles away.

Bull elephant Riff Raff faces being shot for being a ‘nuisance’. Pictured: The animal after being darted with an immobilising agent during an operation to relocate him from The Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve in Limpopo
Riff Raff’s habit of trampling fences to gain access to land that belonged to him for more than half his life has led neighbours to apply to have him killed. Pictured: Inside the recovery crate after being darted
A fence was erected in the middle of his home during one of the region’s worst droughts – cutting him off from a water source and land that he had used unhindered for 13 years

It looked as though Riff Raff’s days were numbered when permission to relocate him was turned down by the Limpopo government.  

But at the last-minute Judge M.G. Phatudi intervened and on Tuesday granted Riff Raff a temporary stay of execution. 

The decision by the government’s Economic Development, Environment and Tourism to reject the plan to relocate the elephant must now be reviewed by the court.

Animal campaigners are fighting the killing in court, and have found he elephant (pictured being lifted by a crane onto a flat-bed truck) a new home 250 miles away
It looked as though Riff Raff’s days were numbered when permission to relocate him was turned down by the Limpopo government
But at the last-minute a judge intervened and on Tuesday granted Riff Raff a temporary stay of execution. Pictured: JJ van Altena – director of Global Supplies – pushes on the head of Riff Raff as they transport the animal
Humane Society International/Africa and Global Supplies (pictured tending to Riff Raff after he was darted) have been trying to save Riff Raff for two year

HSI/Africa has been trying to save Riff Raff for two years and even relocated him to a new reserve last year when neighbouring landowners threatened to apply to have him killed. 

But the elephant turned around and walked the 40-mile journey back to his original territory, and back in the line of fire.

Audrey Delsink, Wildlife Director of HSI/Africa, said: ‘Riff Raff is a magnificent bull elephant who symbolises the growing problem here in South Africa of lethal solutions being sought to solve human-elephant conflict. 

‘Many elephants who are labelled a problem are simply bull elephants following what they are biologically hard-wired to do – leave their herd to find their own new range with unrelated females so that they can move up in the bull hierarchy and sire offspring. 

‘With crops and human settlements common in and around elephant protection areas, they often encounter fences, and then all too often land-owners seek to solve fence-breaking behaviour with a rifle.

HSI/Africa has been trying to save Riff Raff for two years and even relocated him to a new reserve last year when neighbouring landowners threatened to apply to have him killed
But despite successfully transporting Riff Raff to the new reserve, he turned around and walked the 40-mile journey back to his original territory, and back in the line of fire.

‘In Riff Raff’s case, a fence was erected in the middle of his home range during one of the region’s worst droughts, cutting him off from a water source and land that he had used unhindered for 13 years.’

‘We very much hope that the review process will assess the exceptional circumstances of Riff Raff’s case, address the ill-judged historical decisions that have led to this conflict, and set an important precedent by overturning Limpopo’s refusal to let us relocate Riff Raff again.’

An independent study facilitated through the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group revealed that up to 50 destruction permits were issued between 2016-2017 to kill so-called problem elephants. ·

If the decision is upheld Riff Raff will be killed through something called a destruction permit

Conservationists in South Africa are concerned that destruction orders are being used by landowners as a quick fix to get rid of elephants rather than be inconvenienced by having to implement elephant-friendly management plans for their land.

HSI/Africa’s Delsink added ‘If the decision is upheld and Riff Raff is killed through a destruction permit, it will be a tragedy not only for this amazing animal but for all so-called ‘problem’ elephants across South Africa who face a similar fate.

‘While we have no guarantee that Riff Raff’s relocation to the new reserve would be successful, as care-takers of the natural world, all stakeholders have a moral obligation to find non-lethal solutions to these human-wildlife conflict challenges. 

‘We share this land with these magnificent giants, it should be utterly unthinkable to kill them simply because it’s easier than managing the land in a way that considers their biological drivers. 

‘The travesty is compounded by the fact that the body mandated to protect these animals is the same one issuing these destruction permits.’

HSI/Africa is extremely grateful to have been represented in court by Hogan Lovells.

Read original article here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6882393/Elephant-faces-shot-nuisance-South-Africa-given-hope.html

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