Three elephants were put down over the weekend after escaping the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal.
Initially, five elephants had escaped the reserve and two were pushed back into the park using a helicopter, said Musa Mntambo, spokesperson for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
Mntambo said in an interview with the African News Agency (ANA) on Monday that they were forced to shoot the remaining three elephants because they had wandered off into a nearby community and posed a threat to residents.
“On Saturday we received reports saying that five elephants were outside the park. We made use of our helicopter to try and get the animals back in. We managed to push two back inside the park.
“By the time we had gone back to look for the other three, they had gone into the village, which is plus-minus seven kilometres away. We realised that if we try to push the elephants back into the park with the helicopter, it may be risky and dangerous,“ said Mntambo.
Mntambo said it was risky because when they use a helicopter to push animals, they tend to run in a zigzag pattern which could have potentially harmed the residents.
The team then applied for a permit to put down the animals, which they received.
After shooting the elephants, the park rangers removed their tusks and placed them back at the iMfolozi park.
“We removed whatever parts we remove when an elephant dies and left the remaining parts for the community to cut up and go and eat in their homes,” Mntambo said.
When asked why the park management made the decision to kill the three elephants, Mntambo said that it was the safest thing to do at the time.
“I know people are arguing and saying maybe we could use an aeroplane to lift them up and take them to the game reserve, but we need a very powerful aeroplane to do that. We don’t have the equipment to do that.”
Furthermore, Mntambo said that the three elephants had gone into an area inaccessible by their trucks, so they could not put them down and take them back to the reserve.