Mr Joseph Munzhele stands next to one of the big mango trees that were uprooted by the stray elephants. Photo supplied.
Well-known crop and fruit farmer from Musanda Mr. Joseph Munzhelele received an unpleasant surprise in September this year when stray elephants destroyed his tomato and mango crops. Just when he thought things had returned to normal, the elephants returned last Thursday (16th) and trashed his orchards again.
Where the elephants came from is not certain, but with Makuya Park nearby, residents believe they are from there. The animals could also possibly have crossed the Limpopo River from neighbouring Zimbabwe.
Munzhelele lost thousands of rands worth of produce during the first incident, and he has not been compensated. He said that he had thought he could try to make up for some of the losses by selling the mangoes that had survived the first trashing. This was not to be as the elephants destroyed his hopes last week.
“As farmers, we lose a lot when the elephants trample our orchards. We have lodged complaints with the Limpopo Economic Development, Environment, and Tourism department (LEDET), but nothing has been communicated to us concerning compensation. We solely depend on our farms for a livelihood, but these elephants are now making life difficult for us,” said Munzhelele.
He is also upset about the fact that game rangers came out to investigate but did not do anything to scare the elephants away. “These people were armed but said they could not help as they also feared for their lives. I am fed up. My losses are immense, and there is no commitment to compensate me. I have had enough, and I am left with no option but to seek legal assistance to recoup my loss,” Munzhelele said.
Another farmer, who preferred anonymity, said the department did not seem concerned about their losses. “This is far too much, and we will be forced to take the law into our hands by killing these stray animals,” he said.
The spokesperson for LEDET, Mr. Zaid Kalla, responded by saying that the current spring and summer season always brought with it vegetation that attracted such wildlife to stray either across borders or even break out of their usual habitats. “Heavy rains also play a role in the misplacement of various wildlife,” he said.
Kalla said that totally stopping the movement of all wildlife from their usual habitats was not possible. “However, we always have environmental officers who are well trained to manage such situations as well as apply the necessary measures, where need be, in an attempt to safeguard the lives of our people.”
The department urged residents to remain mindful that all wildlife species within the country’s borders should be considered assets and key contributors to the thriving tourism sector. “We also call upon our communities to report any stray wildlife to the department, the SAPS, as well as our tribal authority offices across the province,” he said.
News - Date: 26 November 2023
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Elmon Tshikhudo started off as a photographer. He developed an interest in writing and started submitting articles to local as well as national publications. He became part of the Limpopo Mirror family in 2005 and was a permanent part of the news team until 2019.