A herd of over 30 elephants in South Africa is now facing the prospect of being slaughtered after the death of a conservationist, LADbible reports.
According to the media outlet, Beyers Coetzee, a 45-years old head of the Mawana Reserve, got trampled and gored by two rogue bulls when he was trying to usher the herd back into the reserve.
"I was leading and Beyers was close by and had been setting off the crackers and I warned him the elephants were getting angry", Thobani Masondi, an employee at the reserve, said. "But he wanted to get them over the river into the safety of the reserve. I did not see the two elephants but I could smell them. Then they came out the bush from 15 metres. Everyone was running and I nearly collided with Beyers then I heard a thud as the bulls hit him and they had him. There was nothing that anybody could do to help him."
Prior to Beyers’ untimely demise, the Mawana Reserve was also reportedly criticized by groups such Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife which is responsible for maintaining wildlife conservation areas in KwaZulu Natal, and which "had consistently questioned Mawana Reserve's wilderness project over incomplete fencing".
"We are in the business of conserving animals and a decision to destroy any animal is taken with a heavy heart and in most cases is done to prevent the further loss of life", company spokesman Musa Mntambo said, noting that the reserve was investigating Beyers’ death, and that the fate of the elephant herd in question is yet to be decided.
However, LADbible quotes one source "close to the authority" as saying that while the two elephants responsible for the killing "are certainly likely to be shot dead", and that the conservationist’s death "is being seen as a reason for the entire herd to be culled but it is totally wrong".
"The problem is that the finance to fence the elephants in should be provided by the state but trying to get agreement or the actual finance in place is just a near impossibility", the source explained. "Their only hope is that somehow the money is raised to fence in a new reserve. The fact they keep escaping and causing damage has become a nuisance for the authority."
Meanwhile, a number of conservationists are now reportedly striving to raise about $1 million needed to construct 100 kilometers of "secure fencing" needed to ensure the elephant herd’s safety.
"There are calls out there to cull the elephant herd because of Beyers' death and because they keep straying but trust me that is the very last thing on earth that he would want," said one of them, regional director of animal conservation non-profit The Aspinall Foundation named Dereck Milburn who was also a close friend of the deceased. "These are not aggressive elephants but they were being pushed hard that day to get out of the community area and the two bulls got frustrated and this was their normal behaviour. The relevant authority should not even be looking into culling these elephants and none of them should lose their lives because at the end of the day Beyers gave his to save theirs".