Saturday 8 June 2019

Security guard at South African mine killed by Elephant.

A security guard has died after being trampled by an Elephant at a mine in Limpopo State, South Africa, on Saturday 8 June 2019. Eric Kgatla. 45 was last seen in a guard house at the Foskor phosphate mine in Phalaborwa at about 4.00 am, by another guard who then went on to patrol a road at the site. The other guard returned to the site after hearing an Elephant, and witnessed one moving away from the structure, but was unable to find Kgatla. A search of the area found his body nearby, having apparently been trampled to death.

 'Guard Houses' used at the Fosker Mine. Letaba Herald.

The population of South Africa has risen from 18 million in 1960 to  57 million today, fuelling an expansion of both urban and agricultural land use into former wilderness areas. Many animals will simply flee such incursions, or, if unable to, are likely to end up in the cooking pots of hungry villagers. Elephants, however, are a somewhat different proposition. They are large animals, not used to being challenged by other animals in their home ranges, and typically live in matriarchal herds of up to a hundred, with herds holding large territories, criss-crossed by Elephant trails. A herd of Elephants encountering a new Human structure, particularly a poorly defended structure, are unlikely to attempt to go round it, and are quite likely to maximise the damage they cause to show their displeasure.

A herd of Elephants at the SanWild Wildlife and Rhino Sanctuary in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Louise Joubert.

Elephants are considered to be threatened across Africa, due to a combination of hunting, principally for the value of their tusks, and habitat loss, with the population across the continent thought to have dropped from 3-5 million in 1900 to about 415 000 today, and about 50% of Elephant-suitable land having disappeared since 1970. In South Africa the population trend has run the other way, with the population having fallen to a low of about 120 individuals in 1920, then risen to about 10 000 today through careful conservation management. However, while the country's extensive system of game reserves and national parks means that Elephants in South Africa face no immediate threat from habitat loss, the high black market value of Elephant ivory, combined with the high number of people living in poverty in the nation, means that Elephants are very much at risk from illegal hunting (poaching).

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