Zim elephant euthanised after firecracker scare - conservation group

2015-09-29 20:00

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Harare - Rangers in northern Zimbabwe have had to euthanise an elephant which broke its leg after being startled by a firecracker, a conservation group says.

In a case that highlights the ongoing difficulties of human-wildlife conflict in game-rich areas, the bull elephant had a firecracker thrown at him on Saturday night in Chawara, a commercial area of the resort town of Kariba, an official from the Kariba Animal Welfare Trust (KAWFT) said.

As he moved away in fright, he fell and hurt his leg, said Debbie Ottman in a telephone interview.

"There was an empty septic tank. With his weight, he crashed through that," she said. "We think he was about 50 [years-old]."

Officials from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority were called. The bull, which was well-known in the area, was unable to get up. He had to be put down on Sunday.

Ottman said attempts were being made to increase the use of chilli-guns in the area. The gun fires a concentrated ball of chilli oil at an elephant that encroaches into "human territory". The resulting sting hopefully teaches the elephant not to trespass into that area again.

Some animal lovers reacted angrily to news of the elephant's death.

"Firecrackers should be banned... they cause so much distress/injury to animals... very sad for this bull elephant...," one woman posted to KAWFT's Facebook page.

But Ottman emphasised the difficulties faced by Kariba residents, who often live in close proximity to big game. 

In an illustration of this, a resident of Kariba's Nyamhunga township was attacked by an elephant on Friday night. She had walked out of her house to speak to someone and did not see the elephant in the dark, the trust said in an update to Facebook. She was understood to be recovering in hospital.

A man was reported killed by an elephant near a shopping centre in Kariba in March this year.

Ottman said: "It's very difficult to stop people using these [fire] crackers." 

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  southern africa  |  animals

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