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DURBAN: A Galweni family, in the Umkhanyakude District Municipality, are battling to come to terms with the unexpected death of their son, Bhekisabelo Prince Nyawo, 46. The father of two was fatally attacked by an elephant earlier this month on the eastern shores of the Pongolapoort Dam.
According to Musa Mntambo, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife communications manager, the circumstances surrounding the incident remain unclear.
However, he said Nyawo had been in the company of another person and had entered the Pongola Nature Reserve looking for their missing cattle when the incident occurred.
At some point, they came across a herd of elephants. The elephants, though often seen roaming within Ezemvelo’s Pongola Nature Reserve, are believed to belong to the adjacent private Pongola Game Reserve East.
“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 incident was reported to the SAPS at Ingwavuma. It should be noted that there have been several incidents of elephants being shot at by poachers in the area. This has resulted in most elephants being unpredictable and dangerous.
The elephant that killed this person may have been in musth, perhaps wounded, or might have been harassed by people before the incident,” said Mntambo.
Meanwhile, Nyawo’s mother, Gladys Nyawo said life will never be the same without her son. She described her son as a kind and loving person.
Aener Nyawo, Bhekisabelo’s father, said that he was hurt by the death of his son. “I did not expect that I would bury my beloved son who was so young and lively. His passing comes as an absolute shock, considering how much we talked and laughed on that fateful day before he left, it really pains me to know that I will never see him again.
“I am a very sickly old man and I relied on him a lot. He worked as my extended arm since I have been unable to work due to years of illness and inability to walk.
“Since the tragic incident, not a single person from the facility has come to see my family and this is very wrong.
“I hope a meeting will be held with the management,” he said.
Sihle Mkhize, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife CEO, said they hope to prevent such incidents from happening. “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,” said Mkhize.
He added that Ezemvelo will initiate engagement with the legal owners of the elephants so that they can be recaptured. Meanwhile, concerns have been raised related to the safety and security of both elephants and people in such facilities.
Megan Carr, Elephant Projects Lead for the EMS Foundation, said getting too close to an elephant can be dangerous.
“Elephants enjoy their personal space. Respecting an elephant’s space will usually lead to a positive interaction but aggravating an elephant or getting too close can be very dangerous indeed. Humans in vehicles should never be closer than 80 – 100 metres from a bull elephant. Bull elephants in musth, a heightened state of reproductive hormones, are more energetic and unpredictable. Growing pressure from humans, broken fence lines, hunting and poaching has added to the unpredictable behaviour and stress of elephants,” said Carr.
“The Sunday Tribune” approached the Pongola Game Reserve East, however comment was not forthcoming by time of publication.