● Outcry as depart­ment or­ders Blaauw­bosch es­capee be put down

The Herald (South Africa) - - Front Page - Guy Rogers [email protected]­soblack­

UN­CER­TAIN FATE: Drama is un­fold­ing in Klein­poort over the fate of an es­caped ele­phant. The ele­phant, which es­caped from Blaauw­bosch Pri­vate Game Re­serve in Septem­ber, was darted on Oc­to­ber 2 and trucked back to the re­serve, which has been crit­i­cised for bro­ken fences and lack of wa­ter. Three days later, the jumbo bust loose again. Now it faces be­ing shot on a neigh­bour­ing farm. But the farmer says, ‘Not on my land’

Drama is un­fold­ing in Klein­poort over the fate of an es­caped Blaauw­bosch ele­phant.

The East­ern Cape en­vi­ron­ment depart­ment has or­dered that the an­i­mal should be shot, but the farmer whose land it is on says she will not let that hap­pen.

The sit­u­a­tion is dis­turbingly sim­i­lar to the in­ci­dent in April 2017 when an es­caped ele­phant was shot at the in­struc­tion of the depart­ment af­ter re­peated warn­ings from neigh­bours and the con­ser­va­tion sec­tor about poor man­age­ment at the Blaauw­bosch Pri­vate Game Re­serve – owned by Arab Sheik Kha­laf Ahmed Kha­laf Al Otaiba.

East­ern Cape eco­nomic devel­op­ment, en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs and tourism depart­ment spokesper­son Ncedo Lisani said on Wed­nes­day the depart­ment had de­cided to put the an­i­mal down.

“A per­mit will be is­sued to a pro­fes­sional hunter and it will be shot to­mor­row [Thurs­day].”

But farmer San­dra Skinner said on Wed­nes­day night: “That is not go­ing to hap­pen.

“The fate of this an­i­mal is on the heads of all those par­ties who knew about the man­age­ment con­cerns at Blaauw­bosch, in­clud­ing the lack of wa­ter and the bro­ken fences, and did noth­ing.

“It is not go­ing to be shot on our farm.”

Ear­lier in the day at the of­fices of Al Otaiba’s le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kuban Chetty, Skinner and her hus­band John, and Blaauw­bosch neigh­bours Pa­trick and Vanessa Gre­war, handed over let­ters of con­cern about the mat­ter, high­light­ing their con­cern about the animals on the re­serve and the dan­ger to peo­ple and prop­erty if they es­caped.

Skinner said the ele­phant had ar­rived on their farm Mon De­sir on Septem­ber 22.

Af­ter they raised the alarm, a pro­vin­cial en­vi­ron­ment depart­ment of­fi­cial had re­sponded and the an­i­mal was darted on Oc­to­ber 2 and re­turned to Blaauw­bosch, which is sit­u­ated in Klein­poort, be­tween Uiten­hage and Jansenvill­e.

“Our con­cern was that un­less the wa­ter sup­ply at Blaauw­bosch was at­tended to and the fence fully re­paired and elec­tri­fied, the same would hap­pen again – which is ex­actly what hap­pened.”

On Satur­day, the ele­phant rum­bled through onto Mon De­sir again, en­dan­ger­ing work­ers, in­ter­fer­ing with live­stock op­er­a­tions, dam­ag­ing their fence and cre­at­ing the risk that their valu­able hunt­ing game would es­cape.

Asked about the sta­tus of the process which saw the depart­ment in 2017 is­sue a di­rec­tive to Al Otaiba re­lat­ing to man­age­ment con­cerns, Lisani said he could not im­me­di­ately com­ment.

In June that year, the depart­ment said there had been no ef­fort by the re­serve owner to rec­tify prob­lems iden­ti­fied in its Jan­uary di­rec­tive and that it was con­sid­er­ing pur­su­ing crim­i­nal charges against him.

Lisani said he could not re­spond to ques­tions about this process or the in­de­pen­dent re­view done in 2017 by re­spected con­ser­va­tion­ists Dr John O’Brien and Brian Bailey, which warned of “in­suf­fi­cient wa­ter, lit­tle or no op­er­a­tional bud­get and poorly main­tained fenc­ing that will fa­cil­i­tate fur­ther ele­phant break­outs”.

Gre­war ap­pealed di­rectly to Al Otaiba.

“Sev­eral man­age­ment steps need to be put in place im­me­di­ately for the well­be­ing of the game and the safety of the com­mu­ni­ties of Klein­poort and Wol­we­fontein,” he said.

“These in­clude the im­me­di­ate re­pair of the bro­ken fence, feed to be pur­chased for drought-stricken wildlife, and ad­di­tional staff and prefer­ably pro­fes­sional wildlife man­age­ment to be brought in.”

Bore­holes and pumps had to be re­paired and wa­ter should be im­me­di­ately dis­trib­uted to the parts of the re­serve that were dry, he said.

“Should you not want to take any of these steps, you should con­sider sell­ing.”

In a let­ter to the pro­vin­cial en­vi­ron­ment depart­ment, Cockscomb Agri­cul­tural As­so­ci­a­tion chair Schalk van der Merwe said Blaauw­bosch was not ad­her­ing to reg­u­la­tions for con­tain­ing wildlife.

“The elec­tric fence is not work­ing. Ele­phants and other animals reg­u­larly es­cape.

“We are call­ing for a so­lu­tion. If the owner can­not look af­ter the Blaauw­bosch re­serve, they must be moved to a place where they can be kept safely.

“The re­spon­si­ble par­ties will be held ac­count­able for any dam­age or in­jury that re­sults from this sit­u­a­tion.”

Chetty said his understand­ing was that Bay busi­ness­man Yusuf Jeeva was over­see­ing some as­pects of the Blaauw­bosch op­er­a­tion.

“I will con­tact him about the fence and then I will be in touch with His Ex­cel­lence [Al Otaiba] and hope­fully con­vince him to come down to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion.”

Sev­eral at­tempts to con­tact Jeeva were un­suc­cess­ful.

SE­CU­RITY BREACH: The re­serve has been widely crit­i­cised for its bro­ken fences

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