Firstly, the comments made in this article are strictly my own personal opinion and do not necessarily reflect that of my partners or the company.
The media has been awash with the story in which a couple visited the Kruger Park and, whilst on a game drive, got too close to an elephant bull in musth, resulting in a nasty incident in which the rental car they were in was destroyed, the lady was seriously injured and the elephant was later shot.
There have been many, many people venting on the incident with the majority of the people firmly placing the blame on the couple that were “innocently” driving through the park – witnessing the many great wildlife sightings that this magnificent destination has to offer.
There have been several incidents over the years where elephants have damaged cars but, as a percentage of the number of visitors that the Kruger enjoys, it is negligible.
But it did happen, and an elephant was destroyed and the general public is furious with these people. The negative image that this has created amongst overseas guests and the damage it may have had on potential visitors to the Kruger, is enormous.
When I first read the details of the incident – it did spark a number of thoughts in my mind
- I felt for the lady who sustained serious injuries when the elephant tusk ripped through the bottom of her thigh. Fortunately she survived, but will bear the scars for the rest of her life.
- I have read people saying that she deserved what she got – Really? Sorry, but I cannot agree with that.
- They will justify that the elephant met a far worse fate.
- I was reminded of the many incidents that have occurred in a reserve where I have an interest in a lodge. If an elephant touches a vehicle or a person, it is destroyed. Elephants there have met the same fate. There is a fine line between conservation and eco tourism.
- How were they to know that the elephant was in musth? I would suspect there are many people out there that have been going to the park for years and still wouldn’t be able to ascertain this.
- Was the elephant aggressive only due to this phase in which they experience high levels of testosterone? A bit like the mood of someone on steroids. But many people drive in the close proximity of elephants whilst they are in musth and there is no incident.
- I suspect the reports that it had a large abscess on one of its tusks made it even more irritable.
But the main question I asked myself was – why the hell did they get so close and why did they not reverse their vehicle when the elephant turned around – it didn’t attack them immediately.
Did they freeze with fear?
I suppose these questions can only be answered once they have been interviewed and they are able to get their side of the story.
I will await this before I cast judgment.
Perhaps this is a possibility – as far as I know the lady lives in the UK and was travelling with her partner, a South African who also lives in the UK. Clearly we have no idea of their “bush experience”.
But think about it – they would have seen documentaries, seen brochures etc, many of which depict the excitement and thrill of getting up close and personal with some of Africa’s most dangerous animals.
I recently went to a private game reserve and was on drive with a suitably qualified field guide and we were watching a male elephant drinking at a waterhole.
The vehicle next to us was close, very close – I am not being critical of the guide as the elephant was showing signs of dominance but did not give any warning signs of an imminent attack.
I got this image of the scene.
The elephant shook its head, waved it trunk, extended it’ s ears and moved on.
All was cool in this instance but I can assure you, even the most qualified game rangers have, and can make mistakes.
Should the couple be completely castigated, constantly referred to as complete idiots and told to go back to England and never return?
I don’t think so.
Should the elephant have been destroyed?
On a side note – our national parks are under serious threat from the damage created to the environment by the over population of elephants.
There are various methods that the authorities are trying to institute to control the growth of numbers with limited success and remember that our national parks have fences, so the biomass in the regions can only support a certain number of the species before irreparable damage is caused, having a detrimental effect on other species.
To cull or not to cull – I suppose it depends on whether your thoughts are purely based on emotion OR fact but now there is a subject that I am not even going to begin to get embroiled in.
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