“Mabitsi, Selati and Kiddibone are not problem elephants,” Lisette Withers confirms as we wait anxiously for the arrival of the vehicle carrying the three of them. “They are casualties of a system that uses a bullet as the solution.”
“Mabitsi was a break-out elephant – an elephant that breaks a fence and once having done so, is regarded as a threat and is usually dealt with by discharging a bullet between the eyes. Selati and Kiddibone were part of a management reduction programme at a private reserve and that meant that their choices were either the captive industry or a bullet,” Lisette explains using words that are simple and to the point.
Through the efforts of Lisette and Ian, KEP recently celebrated the release of these elephants into private game reserves, again highlighting the Park’s efforts outside KEP boundaries.
Few people know that KEP enjoys the luxury of land that is not open to the public, but that serves elephants that prefer hands-off management; a facility that can be defined as a true rehabilitation centre. Whilst the NEMA act does not provide for a true elephant rehabilitation centre, the actions of KEP allow for the closest solution to the pitfalls of this act and the restrictions to a rehabilitation centre. The NEMA act requires that an animal, once rehabilitated, is returned to the wild. The only shortcoming of this act is that captive elephants can only really be returned to private game reserves.
The heartache to this dilemma is that the effort to regulate these few elephants is really not a priority to those tasked with the duty. Added to this heartache is the standpoint that many animal rightists have, i.e. that these animals should not be allowed to go into captive facilities at all and are better off dead.
Our challenge to all concerned is to see what we have achieved in the last two years. Four so called problem elephants now roam freely in private reserves; surely this is a small victory for conservation and for these elephants?
Description of photos, from top to bottom:
Bully the elephant is safely darted and the dart soon takes effect. Next is the anxious loading up so that he can be tranferred to his new home. Once he arrives, he is carefully off-loaded and administered a wake-up drug. The drug soon takes effect and Bully slowly gets onto his feet again. He meets his new friend Mabitsi and they are soon enjoying the new surroundings together.