Zambian authorities on Saturday voiced concern over a growing trend of elephant violence against wildlife officers.
The statement came a day after an official in Zambia’s largest wild animal and elephant habitat, Kafue National Park, was tusked to death by a wild elephant during a field trip for students.
“Officer Happy Kasonde met his fate when he, 30 pupils and seven staff members from the visiting school dis-embarked off the bus they were travelling on to see a herd of elephants from which one of the elephant charged. The officer fired two warning shots in the air to scare the elephant but it did not stop until it reached him and pierced him with the tusk, throwing him mid-air,” said Tourism Minister Rodney Sikumba, adding that no members of the school group were harmed.
Sikumba said in a statement from the capital Lusaka that he was saddened that two weeks earlier, a family of elephants in the Lower Zambezi National Park turned on an officer trying to protect their calves, in the process claiming a human life.
“It is sad that such incidents are happening at a time when the tourism sector is rebounding and people are keen on visiting national parks. The work of wildlife police officers is very risky and regrettable that the same animals they protect from poachers often kill officers on duty,” he added.
Conservationists estimate that the Southern African nation is home to around 22,000 elephants, an animal species generally known for being gentle around human beings.
However, elephants can become aggressive and dangerous, especially the female when in the company of calves, and males when injured or alone.