Nature reserve apologises to guests traumatised by cries of hunted elephant
Balule Nature Reserve in Limpopo has apologised to guests from a nearby lodge who heard the blood-curdling cry of an elephant being shot multiple times by hunters.
The reserve is investigating the incident, which happened on Friday night and which it described as "harrowing and traumatising".
"Based on witness accounts gathered to date, this incident seems not to comply with the sustainable utilisation model of ethical hunting in accordance with the hunting protocol that governs all reserves within the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR)," the reserve said,
"If the results of the investigation point to unethical behaviour or behaviour that is contrary to established protocols we will have no hesitation in taking the appropriate disciplinary action," said the reserve in a statement.
Investigations had thus far revealed that "several shots were fired before the elephant was successfully brought down".
Balule said it had since taken statements from four eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen the shooting from a viewing deck.
"Contrary to news media reports, there is no allegation or proof of the use of alcohol by the hunting party before the hunting incident. We have a statement from an independent observer who was at the scene shortly after the incident, who has testified under oath to the sobriety of the hunting party," the reserve said.
It highlighted, however, that these were not poachers.
"The hunt was legal, and we have verified all permits. Our investigation relates to possible contravention of APNR trophy hunting protocol and ethical practice," Balule said.
The SA National Parks (SANParks) on Thursday condemned the incident.
Kruger National Park (KNP) was notified about the incident by the chairperson of the reserve, said its managing executive Glenn Phillips.
“The KNP would like to commend the reserve for taking immediate action to investigate the matter, and for their commitment to take all possible measures to ensure compliance with all legal and ethical requirements, pending the finalisation of the investigation, its recommendations and to take severe action against any persons and or organisations who are found to be in breach," said Phillips.
"The immediate communication and transparent action is a testimony to the commitment of Balule management to ensuring compliance by all its members. Sadly, as is always the case, it only takes one individual or organisation to smear the good name of those reserves that seek to comply with ethical and responsible practice.
“The KNP will not condone any practice that is unethical, unsustainable or to the detriment of the conservation estate. SANParks once again reiterates the importance of compliance to both the principles and objectives of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. The organisation is keenly awaiting the finalisation of the investigation”, he added.