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Two more elephants have been shot dead in Zimbabwe after they trampled a policeman to death in the east of the country, conservationists said on Thursday.
The shootings – authorised on Monday by the state wildlife authority after the animals were classified as problem animals – come after an elephant was put down in Victoria Falls last week for killing its handler.
Fence tampered with
The two semi-tame elephants, named Jane and Chatunga, lived in the Cecil Kop Nature Reserve in the eastern border city of Mutare. They got out of the park on the evening of July 18 through a portion of the electric fence that had apparently been tampered with by cross-border smugglers.
The elephants went on to kill a Zimbabwean policeman stationed along the border with neighbouring Mozambique.
Police constable Prince Dambe and his two colleagues fled their campsite in different directions after the two elephants came and stood outside their tent, said a statement from Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe (WEZ), the organisation that runs Cecil Kop. The police officers left their weapons in their tent.
Ran into elephants
The elephants showed no interest in pursuing the policemen, the statement said, but Dambe was later attacked and killed as he tried to cut through the bush to return to camp.
“Unfortunately he ran straight into the two elephants coming in the opposite direction. The signs at the scene indicated that both elephants participated in attacking and killing Constable Dambe,” it added.
‘A big tragedy’
“The death of this police officer could have been avoided,” Mike Hitschmann, the member in charge of Cecil Kop told News24. “They could very easily have chased the elephants away simply by firing warning shots.”
He described the death of Dambe, a recently married man in his mid-20s, as “a big tragedy”.
Last Saturday an experienced guide with a Victoria Falls safari company was charged and killed by a 30-year-old bull elephant used for elephant-back safari rides.
The elephant, known as Mbanje, was subsequently shot by parks rangers.