'Kill the elephants, now!' Mpumalanga villagers feast on Kruger escapees

25 January 2016 - 12:01 By Beatrice Shongwe
Matsulu residents outside Mpumalanga's capital city celebrate getting meat from three dead elephants.
Matsulu residents outside Mpumalanga's capital city celebrate getting meat from three dead elephants.
Image: Beatrice Shongwe/AENS

Villagers wielding pangas, grinders and knives slaughtered three elephants that were shot dead in Mpumalanga after escaping from the Kruger National Park.

An African Eye News Service reporter witnessed armed rangers from the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) trying to calm residents of Matsulu outside Mbombela last week.

The impatient residents, who had arrived on the scene with empty buckets, wanted the rangers to kill the elephants immediately.

"Kill the elephants, now!!!" they shouted as the rangers tried their best to control the crowd.

"Stay away, elephants are dangerous when cornered," shouted one ranger, but the crowd would hear none of it.

Soon, shots rang and the elephants were on the ground.

Before the rangers could remove the carcasses, the community members had already sliced them open, filling their buckets with fresh meat amidst much pushing and shouting.

The rangers took the heads of the elephants back to the park and left the bodies.

One villager, Doorman Maphanga, said his fridge was overflowing.

"I feel lucky to live in this area where there is so much food available. In January our fridges are always full of meat," Maphanga said.

Another resident, Sgonondo Mnisi, said he filled his bucket with 20kg of meat.

"I will go house to house selling this meat," he said.

Kruger spokesperson William Mabasa said animals escaped from the park in search of greener pastures.

He said once the animals escape, they are no longer the Kruger’s responsibility but that of provincial conservation authorities.

MTPA spokesperson Kholofelo Nkambule said MTPA and Kruger officials did their best to chase the elephants back into the park.

"(B)ut the elephant’s escape route was blocked by people... The park’s aircraft had to leave and the decision was then taken to cull the elephants.

"The heads of the elephants were removed from the scene to extract the ivory, which by Law, accrue to the MTPA," said Nkambule.

- African Eye News Service