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It will be a bittersweet occasion at Dinokeng Game Reserve in the city today when four elephants bulls are translocated out to Mozambique.
The initial translocation was supposed to take place yesterday but was delayed by logistical miscommunication with the Department of Environmental Affairs. The consolation will be the fact that no more damage will be incurred by the brute force of the animals on the reserve.
The bulls have, over the past few years, learnt to break fences and caused significant damage in the reserve.
And the landowners have been considering a number of different options to manage the problem, including culling.
On a sombre note, despite the the damage the elephants have caused, management admitted that the bulls would be sorely missed, as intimate relationships were forged between rangers and the bulls.
They fondly recalled how earlier this year one of the bull elephants escaped from Dinokeng and was followed by seven others.
It took rangers and volunteers two days to escort the elephants back to the reserve.
At that time the elephants had breached the boundaries and were more than 16km away from the reserve, heading towards the densely populated towns of Cullinan and Refilwe.
Director of Elephants, Rhinos & People Derrick Milburn said that when the bulls escaped, the key concern was their wellbeing and the lives of unsuspecting people they could have encountered on their way.
“On April 17, our 911 Elephant Team members were woken up at 4.15am by telephone calls informing us of unimaginable news – the elephants had escaped,” he said.
The organisation, which has been at the forefront of protecting elephant bulls at the reserve, stepped in and signed a four-year agreement to manage the animals as a strategic partner to the reserve.
They have since placed collars on three elephants, assisted the reserve in stopping hundreds of fence breaks with dedicated monitors.
“And we were able to get the elephants back to the reserve after they walked about 18km away after breaking out,” he said.
The organisation has now raised funds to relocate the bulls to Zinave National Park in Mozambique in an operation which would have cost an estimated R650000.
That, he said, would have included tranquillisers, food and transportation.
“It really is a small price to pay for these amazing bulls. Yes, they have damaged parts of the property but that doesn’t equate to joy and learning we have experienced with these boys,” he said.
Milburn said they needed space for the elephants and communities very often had large tracts of land which could be secured for elephant protection.
“Through this translocation, we are alleviating pressure on the elephant population and it is funding well spent,” said Milburn.
The elephants – Tiny Tim, Hot Stuff, Charles and Lumpy – are expected be relocated in pairs due to space constraints on the truck.
The nature reserve said the truck transporting the elephants could only accommodate two at a time, and would drive an average speed of about 40km/* on an almost 24-hour-trip.
Zinave is a protected area in Mabote, Inhambane, in eastern Mozambique. It was established in June 1973 and extends to the south of the Save River, covering an area of 4000km2.