South African elephant Riff Raff eludes death sentence

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In Hoedspruit, South Africa, Riff Raff, the bull elephant will not be shot dead for knocking down fences and trampling on farmland. Animal activists have managed to secure a reprieve for the 45-year-old pachyderm.

According to the Daily Mail, the six ton elephant was deemed to be a nuisance by angry landowners after he continued to trample through fences to gain access to land that had been part of his territory for more than 20 years. In 2017, the elephant was moved 40 miles away from the area, but he wandered back.

During the period of musth, when elephants sexual desires increase, the males can become extremely aggressive and tend to return to the area where they know while looking for a mate. And while answering “nature’s call” Riff Raff just wanted to return to his original area, and to do that he broke through fences.

And for now his supporters are fighting to save his life in court. The Humane Society International/Africa and Global Supplies have found him a new home 250 miles away, but permission to relocate him had been denied by the Limpopo government. At the last minute however, Judge M.G. Phatudi intervened and Riff Raff was granted a temporary stay of execution.

The decision to reject the elephant being transferred will now be reviewed by the court.

“Riff Raff is a magnificent bull elephant who symbolizes the growing problem here in South Africa of lethal solution being sought to solve human-elephant conflict,” stated Audrey Delsink, Wildlife Director of HSI/Africa.

In this elephant’s defense, however, a fence that he knocked down had been built in the middle of his home range during a drought and cutting him off from his water source that he had used for the last 13 years. How is that fair, and how does one tell an elephant he can’t go back to his home range? Better yet – why?

Between 2016 and 2017, more than  50 elephants were killed because they were “problems.” For the government officials who are mandated to protect elephants, it is indeed tragic these are the same people issuing death warrants.

The World Wildlife Fund ranks elephants as a vulnerable species; the global population has declined from 10 million in the last century to 415,000. Most lose their lives from ivory poaching, human settlement and hunting.

The court battle continues.

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