The Dinokeng Game Reserve Management Association (DGRMA) and Dinokeng Game Enterprises (DGE) are committed to minimising the risk to human life and are therefore having the Marekele Matriarch examined by a veterinary expert today, thereafter a decision on further action will be taken.
The elephant will not be euthanised today. The elephant will be checked out following a lengthy process and due to the increasingly unpredictable behaviour of the Matriarch, euthanisation is considered as the last resort.
“We believe the risk to human life is just too great. We have been monitoring the herd, training guides on elephant behaviour and educating the public, but there is a high number of people traversing through the reserve on two public roads, including buses and taxis. We also have three schools including a primary school in the park,” says Angus Vosges, Dinokeng Game Enterprises Director and Chairperson. “It would be irresponsible of the DGRMA and DGE to not act.”
He adds that with self-drives increasing in the centre and south of the game reserve in an uncontrolled area, and the fact that it is impossible to train all the public, the risk to human life is too great. Every game reserve that allows tourists through has risks, and Dinokeng Game Reserve even more so because it is a smaller sized reserve with a high density of human activity.
“Since we received the Elephant herd from the Marataba section in Marakele National Park at the end of 2019, we have done what we can do to mitigate the risk to human life while considering the wellbeing of the elephant herd,” Vosges says.
Over the last two years, the DGE and DGRMA consulted with elephant experts, attempts were made to change the matriarchs behaviour, and various recommended risk mitigation initiatives were implemented including workshops, guide training, and elephant monitoring during 2021. In addition, the game reserve made information on elephant viewing available on their website and provided detailed pamphlets for guests at pay point upon purchasing a self-drive permit.
However, the Matriarch’s behaviour has become increasingly unpredictable, with many game guide vehicles being charged, damaged, and one game drive vehicle was overturned with one person injured.
Dinokeng Game Reserve’s eco-tourism model has been immensely successful as rural communities benefit from employment – over 800 jobs have been created – and the reserve has implemented a number of successful animal conservations projects to date with thriving Black Rhino, Cheetah, Giraffe, Lion, Elephant and Hyena populations.
The Dinokeng Game Reserve is part of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) and are also the only reserve in Gauteng working with BRREP. “The Black Rhinos are doing well, and the population is growing,” says Vosges. Dinokeng Game Reserve also work closely with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) cheetah range expansion programme/ cheetah metapopulation programme with many successes of moving and receiving cheetah nationally and internationally.
“If a tragedy occurs related to the Marekele Matriarch it would undo all the successful animal conservation programmes at the Dinokeng Game Reserve, thereby affecting tourism, employment and ultimately the livelihoods of the community. This is not what anyone wants.”