Published on February 3, 2014 | by Jessica Murray

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Killing gentle giants

Jessica Murray year 3 BA journalism student

Murray has previously worked at a South African game reserve

Elephants. The largest land animals on this earth, but the ‘gentle giants’ of this world.

As a keen wildlife enthusiast, a volunteer in the past at a South African game reserve, and a journalism student in utter adoration of elephants, I was (and still am) completely outraged after hearing that the Kruger National Park bull elephant has been killed due to, quite frankly, human error and ignorance.

For those who don’t know the story, amateur footage recently emerged on YouTube of a bull elephant flipping over a tourist’s car with his tusks at Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Following this, the elephant has been killed due to what the National Park’s general manager, William Mabasa, claimed to be behaviour “we did not understand.”

All reports claim that the elephant was drinking from a nearby waterhole when he “suddenly” turned and attacked the car.

An elephant would not simply turn and attack for no reason at all, and he certainly didn’t for any reason that justifies losing his life.

Educated

If those in the park were correctly educated, they should have seen the several warning signs that the elephant gave prior to attack: flapping his ears; performing a ‘mock charge’ with his head down.

The driver of that car, however, chose to dangerously ignore these signs and continued to persue the elephant, all for the sake of a camera shot.

It’s possible that, as with a lot of wild animals, the elephant saw the vehicle as simply that…a vehicle.

Many animals will see a car but not the people inside, and as this car was constantly persisting the bull, he felt the need to use his strength to his advantage after feeling threatened by an alien object in his natural habitat.

It saddens me that animals are punished for protecting themselves in their own homes which humans continuously invade.

Having had an elephant mock charge me whilst I was on a game drive during my volunteering in South Africa – a female elephant was protecting a very young calf – I firmly believe that the killing of this beautiful animal could have been avoided had the tourists backed away slowly and left the bull alone, as we did.

Mabasa has said that the National Park has no regrets about the decisions that were made as visitor safety comes first, especially since it is currently peak season.

Horrifying

It is horrifying that once again human entertainment is put before the welfare of wildlife in a place that is supposed to protect this endangered species.

I am in great support of The Independent’s elephant campaign which outlines each step of progress that is being made in an attempt to save these beautiful creatures of our natural world.

A lot of famous faces have gotten involved with this project, from David Cameron to Stephen Fry.

The main idea of this campaign is to create awareness about what is happening and to raise funds for the charity Space For Giants, who will use the money to end poaching in Africa.

It is horrifying that once again human entertainment is put before the welfare of wildlife in a place that is supposed to protect this endangered species.

I believe that the key to stopping unjustified wildlife killing is to ensure that the public are correctly educated on the implications of their actions and how they are harming our world.

National parks are supposed to exist to protect endangered wildlife from extinction as a result of human expansion, and yet here we find an elephant’s life ended because humans desire to, once again, invade animals’ natural habitat.

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