Infamous rogue elephant escapes from park

Kigali - A rogue elephant believed to be the only single animal to have prompted a United States security alert, has escaped from a national park in Rwanda, terrifying villagers, a wildlife official said on Wednesday.

Mutware, a bull with often violent tendencies who has attacked vehicles in the past, strayed out of eastern Rwanda's Akagera National Park at the weekend and has been trampling through the area with abandon, the official said.

"He has been through villagers' fields," Fidel Ruzigandekwe, a conservation officer with Rwanda's Tourism and National Parks Office (ORTPN), told reporters.

"He has destroyed crops but so far no one has reported any damage to infrastructure," Ruzigandekwe said, adding that Mutware had been spotted as far as 10km from the park since he left on Saturday.

Last year, the 37-year-old elephant wrecked at least three cars in Akagera, sparking an unusual warning from the US embassy in Kigali advising park visitors to steer well clear of sites he is known to frequent.

As with his current foray thus far, no one was injured in those attacks but they enhanced Mutware's fearsome reputation and frightened villagers who are now demanding action to stop the elephant's roaming.

Ruzigandekwe said two teams of ORTPN experts had been sent to the region to track Mutware and return him to the park and that authorities were considering constructing some kind of barrier to keep him from straying.

"We're looking at ways of putting a barrier around the park," he said. "We going to start by digging a ditch around it."

Park rangers have said Akagera's boundaries have been reduced over the years due to population pressures and that Mutware, with his elephant's memory, may still remember the old borders and not realise he is leaving a protected area. - Sapa-AFP

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