Traffic halted as escaped elephants herded 10km back to reserve

2016-05-30 16:00

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Hoedspruit - Traffic on a public road outside Hoedspruit in Limpopo was brought to a standstill on Monday morning, as two bull elephants were herded more than 10km back to their home in the Balule Nature Reserve.

The two elephants most likely escaped from the Greater Kruger National Park to search for food due to the on-going drought in the area, Balule head warden Craig Spencer said.

“Some portions of the reserve are still open to tribal land along the Olifants River, so this is most likely where the elephants escaped. Fortunately, we managed to track them down quickly,” said Spencer.

Balule staff and conservation organisation Transfrontier Africa arrived in a fleet of vehicles which were used to herd the elephants back along a busy tar road to the reserve. The team spent around two-and-a-half hours on the mission, guiding the elephants for around 11km.

“They were actually extremely relaxed and stopped to feed on the lush vegetation next to the road several times. We had switched off the electric fences to allow them to burst through there if they needed to, but the elephants were very happy to just walk straight through the access gates back into the reserve,” said Spencer.

80 cars backed up

Local community organisation Hoedspruit Farm Watch was on hand to control traffic during the operation.

“At one stage, there were around 80 cars backed up waiting for these elephants, but overall everything went very smoothly,” said Spencer.

Spencer said such incidents were likely to increase as a result of the drought, with animals literally in search of greener pastures. Over the weekend, an escaped black rhino was airlifted back into the reserve.

“We suspect that these escapes will continue to increase with the drought, especially with the mega-herbivores. Fortunately, as one of the custodians of Greater Kruger’s western boundary, we are proud of our record of being able to get animals back safely before they conflict with humans and have to be put down,” said Spencer.

A recent game count had shown a 67% drop in the number of herbivores on the reserve, but these animals had most likely moved into other areas of the Greater Kruger National Park, Spencer said.

Read more on:    polokwane  |  animals

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