A family group of six elephants that broke out of the Kruger National Park (KNP) was shot on Friday September 9, 2005. The elephants had travelled some 20km out of Kruger, and were close to Hobo Primary School in the village of Cunningmoor, north of Mkhuhlu, when section rangers from Kruger and Mpumalanga Parks Board (MPB) officials put the animals down.
The same group of elephants had been herded by helicopter back into Kruger the day before, and were at least a kilometre inside Kruger's borders on Thursday afternoon. Early the following morning, reports were already coming into Kruger of the elephants' presence in the village. Skukuza section ranger Bhiraj Nariandas, who helped coordinate the operation, says that he is not certain what motivated the elephants to break out again so soon after they were returned to the park.
He also said that it was unusual for a family group to behave like this, as it is far more common in his section for elephant bulls to test the park's boundaries. A crowd had gathered around the animals when the nature conservation and park officials arrived, as it is unusual for elephants to be found this far from the park.
As the elephants were so far from the park and could behave unpredictably when herded through an area full of infrastructure and people it was decided that the elephants should be put down. Once the elephants leave Kruger, the animals become the responsibility of the local nature conservation officials.
In this instance, the elephants were the responsibility of Limpopo nature conservation, but due to their proximity to Mpumalanga and the greater capacity of Mpumalanga nature conservation, Limpopo transferred the authority to MPB. Kruger staff helped with crowd control at the scene.
The elephant heads and tusks have been taken to the Klaserie office of Limpopo environmental affairs. The meat has been distributed amongst the villagers. This is not the first time that elephants have had to be destroyed after leaving Kruger and adjoining conservation areas this year.