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‘We no longer have sufficient land to keep them,’ says Ezemvelo as 69 elephants roam out of their territory

Elephants at a watering hole in Tembe Elephant Park in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. There is not sufficient land in SA to keep elephants. Picture: Supplied

Elephants at a watering hole in Tembe Elephant Park in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. There is not sufficient land in SA to keep elephants. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 19, 2023


Durban - South Africa does not have enough land to keep elephants and this has led to many human-wildlife conflicts, says Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife acting CEO Siphesihle Mkhize.

“Elephants are a big problem, not only in KZN 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.”

Ezemvelo said it had intervened in the long-standing human-wildlife conflict caused by the elephants that came from the private Pongolo Game Reserve East (PGRE).

At least 69 elephants roam Ezemvelo’s Phongola Nature Reserve (PNR).

“The ongoing human-wildlife conflict in that area has contributed to the rise of elephant poaching incidents,” said Musa Mntambo, Ezemvelo’s communication manager.

He said the elephants first started roaming out of PGRE to PNR around 2015, when the Phongola River dried up.

The PGRE is a private game reserve authorised in 1997 to introduce elephants by the then-Natal Parks Board.

“By November 2016, these PGRE-owned elephants had found their way to the Eastern Shores section of PNR, where they have been multiplying over the years, destroying the PNR biodiversity and causing conflict with community members who have been using that area.

“Over the past few years, discussions aimed at finding an amicable resolution to this problem, which would have resulted in the PGRE catching and relocating these elephants back to their property, have failed. To date, there has been some reluctance by the PGRE to relocate the elephants to their facility.”

Mntambo said recent discussions were held with several NGOs, among them Conservation Solutions and the Aspinall Foundation.

Ezemvelo would engage the PGRE, who owned the elephants, to translocate them back to their property or take them to any national and international protected areas (PAs) as soon as PAs with adequate carrying capacity for elephants had been identified.

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

He said both organisations had further committed to doing an elephant count next week and checking if any crime scenes might need to be identified.

“Contrary to various media reports alleging the slaughter of elephants at PNR, Ezemvelo is aware of only five crime scenes which it investigated. This figure excludes a young elephant that was snared in Eswatini. All these six elephants were killed within the past six months.

Ezemvelo has engaged the community, through its traditional authority and various stakeholders, to discuss the recent human-wildlife conflict affecting areas adjacent to the PNR, like Galweni, Mpondwana and Mombeni.