Plans to relocate herd of elephants after Phongola poaching incidents

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An African elephant is photographed on the move.
An African elephant is photographed on the move.
PHOTO: Manoj Shah, Getty Images
  • A plan is in place to relocate elephants in the Phongola Nature Reserve after a string of poaching incidents.
  • The elephants initially crossed into the nature reserve from a privately owned game reserve in 2015.
  • They have since multiplied, and there are now almost 70 elephants in the nature reserve.

Plans are being laid to relocate a herd of elephants in the Phongola Nature Reserve, following five incidents of poaching in six months.

If a new home can be found for the, the elephants will be relocated within the next six months, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife said.

Ezemvelo said the relocation was a means to intervene in the "long-standing human-wildlife conflict" with elephants from a privately-owned game reserve that have travelled into Ezemvelo's Phongola Nature Reserve. Almost 70 elephants are now roaming the reserve.

"The ongoing human-wildlife conflict in that area has contributed to the rise of elephant poaching incidents," Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo said.

The elephants first started roaming out of the private game reserve to Phongola around 2015, when the Phongola River dried up. The private game reserve was authorised to introduce elephants in 1997 by the then Natal Parks Board, Mntambo said.

By November 2016, these elephants had found their way to the Eastern Shores section of Phongola Nature Reserve.

Mntambo said the elephants have "been multiplying over the years" and are "destroying the Phongola Nature Reserve biodiversity".

Discussions on an amicable resolution over the years and the privately owned reserve relocating the elephants back to its property "have failed", said Mntambo.

He added:

To date, there has been some reluctance by the [private reserve] to relocate the elephants to their facility.

Ezemvelo will now engage with the privately owned reserve to have the elephants relocated to their property, or have them rehomed at "any national and international protected areas".

"The first batch will probably be translocated in March/April 2023 should the new protected areas be secured. It may take more than a year to translocate them outside of the country if no suitable space is available within the country," Mntambo said.

The relocation will be funded by non-government organisations, Conservation Solutions and the Aspinall Foundation.

READ | Jozini Dam cruise turns into nightmare excursion as poachers fire at guests

Ezemvelo Acting CEO Siphesihle Mkhize said that "elephants are a big problem, not only in KwaZulu-Natal but in South Africa as a whole".

"We no longer have sufficient land to keep them. The sooner the land issue for elephants is addressed, the better, as they are also animals that cause many human-wildlife conflicts. I also appeal to protected areas with extra space for elephants to contact us. We will donate the elephants," he said.

Ezemvelo has already engaged with the local community through its traditional authority and various stakeholders to discuss the recent human-wildlife conflict affecting areas adjacent to the nature reserve, including Galweni, Mpondwana and Mombeni.

Elephant killed on Jozini dam on January 1st.
An elephant that was killed on the Jozini dam in KwaZulu-Natal on New Year's Day.
Supplied Supplied

Last week, poaching in the nature reserve came under the spotlight when suspected poachers opened fire on a group of people, including tourists, on a boat on the eastern shore of the Jozini Dam.

News24 previously reported that the guests were cruising in a boat on the dam when the poachers, reported to have been hunting elephants in the area, opened fire.  

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Colonel Robert Netshiunda said the victims were on a sightseeing tour on the boat when a group started shooting at wildlife. Realising that they were being watched, the poachers opened fire on the boat.

No one was injured in the incident.

An elephant was also reportedly killed in front of guests on New Year's Day, News24 previously reported.

* Editor’s note: This story has been edited to reflect that the incident did not take place on a houseboat, as previously reported. We apologise for the error which has since been corrected.

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