Balule Apologises for “Traumatising” Elephant Hunt Visitors Witnessed

Balule Nature Reserve Executive Committee has issued a statement regarding the “harrowing and traumatising” killing of an elephant on Friday afternoon by hunters, near a lodge where visitors were staying.

File photo.

The visitors, staying at the lodge near Hoedspruit next to the Kruger National Park, apparently watched in horror as two hunters gunned down a young elephant, taking 13 shots to kill it. The men were allegedly drunk … although Balule claims in the statement below that an “independent observer” has testified under oath to the “sobriety of the hunting party”.

The witnesses told ‘Die Burger’ that they could hear the elephant crying and that the entire incident took at least a quarter of an hour, leaving them traumatised.

Balule’s full statement reads:

“We wish to express deep regret that visitors to the reserve had to endure a harrowing and traumatising incident in which an elephant was shot by hunters near the lodge that the visitors were staying at. We apologise profusely and unreservedly to those affected.

“Based on witness accounts gathered to date, this incident seems not to comply with the sustainable utilization model of ethical hunting in accordance with the hunting protocol that governs all reserves within the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) and to which Balule and hence Maseke are bound.

“We are currently doing an in-depth internal investigation into the incident, and will report back once the process has been completed. If the results of the investigation point to unethical behaviour or behaviour that is contrary to established protocols we will have no hesitation in taking the appropriate disciplinary action.

“This has been a difficult few months for us, with a recent illegal elephant hunt on Balule that resulted in a warden being convicted, and we wish to stress our determination to operate in an ethical and transparent manner.

“Note that we conduct detailed post-hunt reports on each and every trophy hunt conducted on Balule, to ensure compliance with legal and ethical requirements.

“At this early stage, we can confirm the following facts about this incident:

  • The incident occurred on Friday afternoon on November 23rd, in the Maseke Game Reserve, which is incorporated into Balule Nature Reserve;
  • The hunt took place in view and about 800 metres from a lodge situated in a neighbouring property;
  • Several shots were fired before the elephant was successfully brought down;
  • Balule management responded as soon as they were notified by the lodge about the incident;
  • There were four eyewitnesses to the incident from the lodge viewing deck. We have obtained statements from them;
  • Contrary to news media reports, there is no allegation or proof of the use of alcohol by the hunting party before the hunting incident;
  • We have a statement from an independent observer who was at the scene shortly after the incident, who has testified under oath to the sobriety of the hunting party;
  • The hunt was legal, and we have verified all permits;
  • Our investigation relates to possible contravention of APNR trophy hunting protocol and ethical practice;
  • The internal investigation is currently awaiting further correspondence and statements from the Maseke Game Reserve representative.”

Not all conservationists are buying the statement, with some calling for the reserves to be boycotted.