Upgrading of the fence on the western border of Letaba Ranch is well underway. The section north of the Letaba River has been completed except for two places where dry streambeds cross the fence. Unfortunately, extensive damage has already been caused to the fence by elephants breaking out of the reserve into the adjacent communal areas. They simply push the fence over, and cause further damage on their return.
In one place an elephant broke a 40m section of the fence and pulled it out of the way. This causes a short in the electric fence and with the electric fence not working, more opportunities arise for other elephants to cause further damage without getting an electric shock. In one of the streambeds where the fence is not erected yet, there are fresh elephant tracks as well as the tracks of three lions moving out of the reserve and into the adjacent communal lands. These animals can now be treated as problem animals and can be shot by provincial officials.
Before the Limpopo government imposed the current moratorium on the hunting of problem animals, these animals could have legally been shot by trophy hunters. It is alarming to see the ease with which animals can cross the fence, but before the fence was fixed the situation was even worse. North of Letaba Ranch where the communal area borders directly on the Kruger National Park (KNP), the situation is worse.
The fence along the banks of the Klein Letaba River is damaged to such an extent that any animal can get through without difficulty. This causes concern over the safety of the animals in both the KNP and Letaba Ranch. Animals outside the protected areas fall prey to poachers and opportunistic hunters.
Given the current condition of the fence, predators such as lions can be easily lured out of these protected areas by illegal baiting and subsequently be shot by trophy hunters. The department of Veterinary Services is responsible for the erection and maintenance of the fence.
By Pieter Strauss