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Aggression brought about by poachers could be what caused a bull elephant to charge at two men who entered the Pongola Nature Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal last week, killing one of them.
Bhekisabelo Prince Nyawo and a friend were looking for their missing cattle at the time, Ezemvelo Wildlife spokesperson Musa Mntambo said on Monday.
He said the details were “fuzzy” but added: “At some point, they came across a herd of elephants. All that is known is that the bull elephant attacked the two men, and one person escaped unharmed. The second person was, unfortunately, killed on the scene. The person who survived, alerted the family of the deceased.”
The family and members of the local community searched for Nyawo before informing Ezemvelo of the incident on 7 September, just after midnight.
Ingwavuma police were alerted and it was decided to delay any rescue attempts due to the presence of the herd of elephants at the scene.
Soon after, police search and rescue teams recovered Nyawo’s body.
Mntambo said it was difficult to know what caused the attack but added that there were several incidents in the area in which poachers shot elephants.
He said: “This has resulted in most elephants being unpredictable and dangerous. The elephant that killed this person may have been in musth (aggression mode), perhaps wounded, or might have been harassed by people before the incident.”
“The elephants, though often seen roaming within Ezemvelo’s Phongolo Nature Reserve, belong to the adjacent private Pongola Game Reserve East,” he said.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife CEO Sihle Mkhize said they would “again initiate engagement with the legal owners of these elephants so that they can be recaptured”.
“These elephants arrived in the area in October 2016 when they were herded across the international border between SA and Eswatini,” he said.
He conveyed his condolences to Nyawo’s family.
“We are saddened by the loss of life inside our nature reserve. Our prayers are with the family of the deceased. As an organisation, we shall support the family of the deceased to the best of our abilities. We hope that this unfortunate incident will serve to bring the community and the nature reserve to work together so that we shall prevent such future incidents,” he added.
Nyawo will be buried on Tuesday in Galweni, Ngwavuma.
He is survived by two children.