Thursday, 9 June 2011

Elephants cause death of two in Victoria Falls


Two deaths caused by elephants, within the space of a week, have shocked residents of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

The first death, of a young man in Chinotimba, Victoria Falls, occurred on the evening of 3rd June. The man, an apostolic sect member, was trampled to death by a bull elephant soon after dusk while praying.

In the second, unrelated incident, a professional guide was killed by a bull elephant at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge while he was accompanying a client during a safari walk. The elephant was believed to be on 'musth', a period where a bull elephant has higher testosterone levels that heighten aggressive behaviour, charged at the two prompting the guide to fire warning shots. The guide however, tripped and the charging elephant trampled him. 

As reported in our recent Newsletters and stories, residents of Victoria Falls town have been plagued by garden-raiding elephants. Of concern is that as patience has worn thin with their nightly visits residents have resorted to harassing the animals more and more, from throwing stones to using loud fireworks, in order to move them on. 

Residents now look to ZimParks to offer advice and guidance on elephant-human interactions and how they can protect their properties from the attentions of elephants. Local conservationists are recommending non-lethal measures which will discourage the elephants from visiting residential areas. They are working on various alternatives such as qualified teams being set up to deal with elephants and a hotline for residents to call 24 hrs a day.

Clearly shooting all the elephants involved is not an option that the tourism industry, or international community, will support, and yet something must be done before another tragic loss of life occurs.

Tourists walking in Victoria Falls are recommended to always carry a torch at night-time and to take special care on roads frequented by elephants (the tell-tale signs are usually more than evident to sight and smell). Ask around and find out if elephants have been around - if so take a taxi. If elephants are encountered on roads, retreat to a safe distance. Do not throw stones or other objects. If you are close enough to throw stones and get a reaction from the elephant, then you are too close!!


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