A dead bull elephant whose tusk had been hacked off was discovered by rangers in the Kruger National Park.
The head of the South African national parks rangers, Johan Jooste, said it was likely the bull was shot on purpose for its tusks. He said rangers patrolling the area noticed footprints of about four individuals leaving the park leading towards Mozambique.
The park’s borders, shared with Mozambique, are patrolled by the South African army to help fight rhino poaching, as poachers often smuggle horns out of the country. Since the beginning of the year, 245 rhinos have been killed in the Kruger.
Ivory poaching is rife on the African continent but South Africa had yet to be affected. Neighbouring Zimbabwe and Mozambique have reported an increase in the number of cases, including some where some animals were killed by cyanide poisoning.
Kruger park boasts an elephant population of 16,700, according to a count in 2012.
‘Greatest crisis in decades’ for Africa’s elephants
While South Africa has certainly been at the centre of Africa’s rhino poaching crisis – with 2,829 rhino reportedly killed by poachers there since 2010 – its elephant populations have escaped largely unscathed.
Elsewhere on the continent, the picture is bleak. Since 2011, when elephant poaching hit the highest levels on record in ten years, the slaughter has continued unabated. Now, between 25,000 and 35,000 elephants are reportedly being killed in Africa every year for their tusks. To the east of the Kruger Park – in Mozambique – thousands of elephants have been poached.
Africa’s elephants are facing their “greatest crisis in decades”, according to an inter-agency “rapid response assessment” published last year.
So is it possible that the Kruger National Park has lost only one elephant to poachers in “well over ten years,” as SANParks claimed in its original media release?
Other poaching incidents recorded
Data collected as part of the MIKE programme – which was established under the auspices of the international Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to monitor the illegal killing of elephants – suggests otherwise:
A recent MIKE report indicates that poachers killed a total of at least three elephants in Kruger during the course of 2007, 2009 and 2011. There are also anecdotal reports of Kruger elephants being killed after crossing the border into Mozambique.
Ken Maggs, the head of SANParks’s environmental crime investigations unit, confirmed to Africa Check that the MIKE data was “correct apart from 2011 where we have two [incidents] recorded”.
“All these animals were indeed poached… but according to evidence found at these scenes were not, we believe, purposely killed for the ivory but rather accidently or rather opportunistically killed by snares set by snare poachers targeting other larger ‘bush meat’ animals like buffalo, hippo.
“The recent Pafuri elephant was however believed to have been the first elephant in many years that was targeted for its ivory, possibly when the poaching group, looking for rhino, failed to locate a rhino and shot the elephant before departing the park,” Maggs said.