Elephant Poaching in South Africa

Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:42 am

January 15 2013 at 02:24pm
By Tony Carnie
Pretoria News

With tusks almost 3m long, Makadebona was the second-largest tusker in Southern Africa. In Zulu his name meant One who has been around/seen it all.
Picture: Leonard Muller

The death of one of Southern Africa’s last big tuskers has sparked appeals for better protection of Africa’s dwindling number of large-tusked elephants, especially the unique ivory gene pool from KwaZulu-Natal’s Tembe Elephant Park.

Last week, field rangers in Tembe found the body of Makadebona, believed to be the second-largest tusker on the sub-continent. Aged around 45, the large bull had head wounds suggesting he was killed in a fight with a rival bull nearly a month ago.

According to Johan Marais, a Pretoria-based wildlife vet and author of two books on Africa’s largest tuskers, there are only about 40 bulls left in Africa which qualify as true tuskers – bulls whose tusks weigh more than 45kg each.

Makadebona’s left tusk was 2.71m long and weighed 58kg, while the right tusk was 2.65m long and weighed 53.5kg.

Until recently, the Tembe park had three of South Africa’s biggest tuskers. Although two of these bulls have died within the past two years, Tembe is still home to South Africa’s largest-known tusker, “iSilo”, a bull with tusks almost 3m long.

Marais said most of Africa’s biggest tuskers lived in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, but in his opinion Tembe was the second best place to see large tuskers.

“Apart from East Africa, nowhere have I seen so many bulls with such magnificent ivory. Even in the Kruger National Park, the average bull carries much smaller ivory than the average bull in Tembe.”

Marais, who has travelled extensively across Africa to research his books on big tuskers, said tourists from the US and Europe were particularly keen to see and photograph unusually large bulls such as “Duke”, previously the largest bull in Kruger.

He noted that Africa’s elephant population had also plummeted to less than half a million, compared with five million elephants 65 years ago. Poaching and hunting pressure had all but wiped out the largest-tusked specimens.

“Now there are only 40 or so tuskers left throughout the continent and with the current level of ivory poaching, I’m worried if we don’t do something soon there will be no big tuskers left within 10 years…”

Marais said he was especially concerned about ensuring the survival of the Tembe elephant gene pool.

“Tsavo National Park in Kenya has more than 12 000 elephants, many with magnificent ivory, whereas Tembe is a very small park with only 230 elephants.”

Because the park was so small and also home to other unique plants and animals, the Tembe elephant population has been controlled artificially for the past six years using the porcine zona pellucida (PZP) contraceptive vaccine.

Marais said while he understood the biological reasons for contraception at Tembe, it was also essential to protect the gene pool of these large-tusked elephants in the park.

“The only solutions seem to be enlarging the park to give them more space, or to halt the contraception programme.”

Although there are plans to drop Tembe’s northern fence to allow the elephants to cross the border into Mozambique and link up with a related herd in the Maputo Elephant Special Reserve, Marais said it might be more practical to enlarge the Tembe park by linking it to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park or the Mkhuze and Ndumo game reserves in KZN.

“Elephant bulls only have a 20-year window to transfer their genes, between the ages of 35 and about 55 years. And they only come into musth (heightened sexual hormone levels) once a year, for about a month.”

Leonard Muller of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, who has been monitoring Tembe’s elephant population for the past four years, said Makadebona’s decomposed carcass had been found by field rangers last Monday in the Ezinaleni section of the park and he seemed to have died about a month ago.

Two years ago, another large bull “Induna” died in Tembe.

At the time, Makadebona was thought to be the park’s third-largest tusker, but a post-mortem inspection showed that his tusks were larger and heavier than those of Induna.

“We think Makadebona was only about 45 years old, whereas bulls can live to around 55 or 60 years old.

“So he was comparatively young and we know that tusks grow exponentially in the last few years of an elephant’s life,” said Muller.

So if he had not died prematurely, Makadebona would have developed really, really big ivory.

“Makadebona was my favourite elephant. He was just such a well-mannered, chilled and beautiful animal.”


Fri Mar 15, 2013 4:42 pm

On the 13th of March the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) received an anonymous tip-off that five (5) elephant calves had been removed from their herds and that their mothers were to be shot at Sandhurst Safaris, Tosca in the North West Province. The juvenile elephants were to be transported via road from the North West Province to Elephants of Eden, Alexandria in the Eastern Cape. Elephants of Eden is owned by the Knysna Elephant Park, which operates elephant back safaris.

The NSPCA immediately notified authorities at the National Department of Environmental Affairs who in turn alerted their Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit and supporting enforcement officials. A road block was set up to stop the truck and check for the relevant permits. Despite the fact that the truck had diverted from its original route, the SAPS were able to locate it in the Northern Cape and it was stopped in Kimberly. The truck was carrying only four elephants that were notably older than indicated on the permits.

Wildlife veterinarian, Dr Douw Grobler, allegedly involved in the rhino horn debacle, accompanied the elephants. Grobler appeared confused regarding the circumstances surrounding the removal of the elephants but later admitted that he had removed the calves from the elephant cows prior to them being shot.

The decision was taken by the Department of Environmental Affairs that the elephants should continue to the Eastern Cape – the original end destination where they would be identified and would remain in the custody of the Department of Environmental Affairs until all investigations have been completed. The decision to allow the elephants to continue to the Eastern Cape is not supported by the NSPCA. We do not believe that this serves the best interests of these animals.

The removal of elephants from the wild for purposes of captivity is contrary to the National Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephants in South Africa. Government Gazette 29 Feb 2008 in terms of section 9 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act No 10 of 2004.
The NSPCA expresses outrage at the removal of elephants from the wild to be placed in captivity for entertainment purposes. Elephants are regarded as intelligent and highly social animals that need large tracks of land to display natural behaviour essential for the wellbeing of the species. The live forced removal of individual elephants from a herd is considered inhumane and cruel.
The NSPCA has confirmed its commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of these juvenile elephants and will remain in close contact with the Department of Environmental Affairs during the investigations. We are determined to see these elephants returned to the wild and will take whatever steps necessary to ensure that this takes place. The NSPCA has secured a permanent home for these elephants where they will be wild with an existing herd. We will bring pressure to bear on the Department of Environmental Affairs to secure their release. Time is of the essence! #nspca


Fri Mar 15, 2013 5:49 pm

:evil: :evil: :evil:


Fri Mar 15, 2013 5:58 pm

Things like this really (can't say what I want) :evil: 0= 0= 0= 0=

Elephant Poaching in South Africa

Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:53 am

Poachers set sights on Kruger ivory

05 APR 2013 00:00 - FIONA MACLEOD

The inability of the national park to pursue offenders across its border is costing game dearly

Poachers are reported to have killed at least six Kruger tuskers on the Mozambican side of the border with the flagship national park, raising fears that the ivory wars afflicting other parts of Africa have filtered through to South Africa.

Conservationists say elephant poachers appear to be using sophisticated smuggling routes set up to launder rhino horns from the Kruger via Mozambique to Asian countries. The global illegal ivory trade has tripled in the past five years, with up to 50 000 elephants killed in 2011 and the proceeds are believed to be funding insurgencies in Central and East Africa, according to the United States department of state.

Poachers have hammered elephant populations in game reserves in northern Mozambique and they are moving south in their quest for big tuskers, said Mozambican conservationist Carlos Pereira. In the Niassa Reserve on the Mozambican border with Tanzania, at least 2500 elephants have been killed in the past two years.

"We are losing elephants at the rate of three to four a day in Niassa and all the tuskers are gone. Now the poachers are heading south to smaller reserves in Mozambique and to the Limpopo and Kruger national parks," said Pereira, a wildlife veterinarian who advises Mozambique's tourism ministry.

Conservationists based on Mozambique's side of the border with the Kruger, where about 40km of fence was dropped in 2002, say elephants have become skittish and aggressive in recent months as a result of the poaching. At least six bulls that had moved into the area are known to have been gunned down and their tusks removed.

Infiltration into the park by poachers, who have killed at least 145 Kruger rhinos this year, has led to growing militarisation along the border, where a South African National Defence Force helicopter crashed last weekend. South African security forces have killed more than 280 Mozambicans involved in poaching and detained at least 300 in the past five years, according to Mozambican newspapers.

The security forces are not allowed to pursue poachers across the border, however, despite evidence that armed gangs brazenly use well-worn footpaths and find refuge among communities living in villages dotted along the Mozambican side. Poaching is treated as a misdemeanour in Mozambique and security forces in that country have been implicated in the rhino-horn trade.

Conservation buffer
At least two members of Mozambique's Frontier Guard and one member of its armed forces were shot by South African security when they were caught on poaching missions inside the Kruger, according to O Pais newspaper. Mozambican officials have also been caught supplying guns, ammunition, transport and other support to poachers.

On the Mozambican side, the Limpopo National Park forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park with the northern section of the Kruger Park. To the south stretch various private ecotourism and hunting outfits operating in what was intended to be a conservation buffer zone along the border down to Komatipoort.

Private operators based there, who spoke to the Mail & Guardian on condition of anonymity, said the Mozambican authorities did not allow them to keep firearms and they had to rely on pepper spray to counter heavily armed poachers. One described how his game scouts tried to encircle rhinos and elephants to chase them back into the Kruger when they crossed the border.

"Sometimes we see bakkies full of poachers following us because they know we have no guns or other recourse. When night falls and the animal is still on the wrong side of the border, we have to leave it and just hope that it is still alive when we get there in the morning," an operator said.

Communication between anti-poaching forces on either side of the border was limited due to the rough terrain and lack of telecommunication and there was often a spirit of rivalry between officials on the two sides which played into poachers' hands, they said.

Poachers living in the villages were easy to identify because their huts had changed into mansions in recent months and they drove smart 4X4s, said private operators. But incidents reported to local police and the Frontier Guard were rarely followed up and cases were known to have been quashed after bribes were paid.

Earlier this year, the South African National Parks (SANParks) board recommended to Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa that the boundary fence along the edge of the Kruger be reconstructed because of the "aggressive incursions from Mozambique". Molewa responded last month that this would depend on an analysis of the rhino-poaching situation in the park and "a lack of positive results emanating from the creation of a buffer zone" along the border.

SANParks, which is hosting a media trip to the border zone next week, said in response to Mail & Guardian questions that it "was not aware of any elephant that was poached in and around the Kruger in recent times". Although the security structures operating in the Kruger were prevented from pursuing poachers across the international border, "they have joint operations with their counterparts in Mozambique which allow them to share information with regard to their operations and such information is used by both parties to pursue cases", said Kruger spokesperson William Mabasa.

Re: Poachers set sights on Kruger ivory

Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:26 am

They need to do an analysis to work out if it's worth putting the fence up???? 0*\ O/ O/ O/

Re: Poachers set sights on Kruger ivory

Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:42 pm

It makes sense indeed (except for the huge amount of poachers killed)!

Honest officials from Moz. do cooperate with SA...but there are few! :evil:

Re: Poachers set sights on Kruger ivory

Sat Apr 06, 2013 7:26 am

By sharing info with the Moz authorities the poachers know exactly what is going on. How gullible our .gov has become, or is it something a little more sinister.

Elephant poached in South Africa

Sat May 25, 2013 10:26 am

Elephant poachers return

25 May 2013
Elise Tempelhoff

FOR the first time in decades, an elephant was shot for its tusks in South Africa this week.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesperson Musa Mnthabo said yesterday an adult cow was poached in the Tembe Elephant Park in the far north of KZN.
It is believed the poachers came over the border from Mozambique. Tracks indicated there were six to eight people involved, Mnthabo said.
He said rangers patrolling on foot heard shots at dusk on Tuesday. They investigated, but in the thick bush and rapidly falling darkness they could find nothing. The following day they returned to the area and found the carcass of the elephant cow. The tusks had been removed.
Rangers followed the tracks “up to a point” and it seemed the poachers had fled into Mozambique.
“We regard it as an isolated incident,” said Mnthabo.
SANParks spokesperson Rey Thakhuli said everyone involved with South Africa’s national parks was on alert.
Thakhuli said SANParks was aware of the threat of elephant poaching, which is rife in central Africa, but it was the first incident in South Africa in two decades “or even longer”.
A report tabled at the recent Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species meeting in Thailand said that since 2011, 25 000 elephants had been poached in Africa.
South Africa has so far avoided the onslaught, but the Wildlife and Environment Society (Wessa) recently warned that the country must prepare for elephant poachers moving south since most of central Africa’s elephants have been wiped out already.
Wessa said South Africa was being stripped of minerals and rhinos. “The next target will be elephants.”
The International Fund for Animal Welfare said in a statement earlier this week that a shipment of 259 African elephant tusks had been seized at Dubai.
At least five tons of ivory had been seized this year, including one ton in Hong Kong, two tons in Mombasa, Kenya, and more than 1,8 tons in Singapore.
Some of it was packed in sacks marked “red beans”. Most ivory is destined for China, where it is regarded as “white gold”.
The onsalught on Africa’s elephants began in 1970 and led to a ban on ivory sales in 1989. Between 1970 and 1980, the continent’s elephant population fell from about 1,2 million to 600 000.

Re: Elephant poached in South Africa

Sat May 25, 2013 10:37 am

Notice the Chinese connection again... O**