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Elephant being relocated at Kruger National Park, South Africa. PHOTO: BRON KOTZE

Yesterday was very exciting, writes Bron Kotze, owner of Mlondozi Self-catering Chalet in Malelane, near the Kruger border. After having followed the news on the Elephants Alive Facebook page, of a group of elephants that were making their way north from Mozambique (over 700kms!), I was delighted to hear yesterday morning that they had reached the southern border fence of the Kruger Park!

Whilst doing our usual brisk morning walk along a stretch of the Parks’ boundary fence (which admittedly, was probably more brisk than usual, with the thought of some ellies in the area!), we happened to see a huge fleet of large mammal relocation trucks, as well as cranes, tractors and several SANParks vehicles, all exiting the Park at Malelane Gate.

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Fleet of large mammal relocation trucks, cranes, tractors and vehicles exiting the Kruger Park at Malelane Gate yesterday morning. PHOTO: Bron Kotze

I could only assume, and hope, that they were on their way to attend to the ellies. By lunchtime, my curiosity got the better of me, and I went into Kruger, with the aim of driving along the S25, which runs parallel to Kruger’s southern boundary fence, and affords good views of Riverside Farm, which incorporates both areas of sugar cane, and stretches of natural bushveld.

The herd initially comprised of 10 ellies, and the leading bull, nicknamed Trail Blazer, has a collar, which has allowed for his movements to be tracked.


Unfortunately, by yesterday, the group had split up – Trail Blazer seemed nearest to Kruger’s fence, trying to find a way in. One male was injured, but not visible, and the other ellies were spread out between 3 properties.

Based on the GPS maps provided, Trail Blazer should still have been in that area. An update then came through at about 3pm stating that the team had already captured 4 ellies, and were on their way back for more…

Upon entering the Park, the SANParks helicopter flew overhead, possibly on its way to the Malelane Section Ranger’s post (for re-fueling, I assumed). My excitement grew!!

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SANParks helicopter heading back to the area where the elephants were. PHOTO: Bron Kotze

Once on the S25 gravel road, I spotted the helicopter which was on it’s way back to the area in question, and I also caught sight of two of the large mammal relocation trucks moving through the farm.

My photos are of poor quality, but the distance was very challenging, and I was trying to capture the action which was at least 1 km away. The rest of the action is detailed below in my photos….🐘🐘🐘🐘:

Relocation trucks on Riverside Farm
Relocation trucks on Riverside Farm. PHOTO: Bron Kotze
Relocation trucks on Riverside Farm. PHOTO: Bron Kotze
Relocation trucks on Riverside Farm. PHOTO: Bron Kotze
SANParks bantam aircraft doing an aerial search over the area. After a lengthy search, he moved out, and the SANParks helicopter moved in to continue...
SANParks aircraft doing an aerial search over the area. After a lengthy search, he moved out, and the SANParks helicopter moved in to continue… PHOTO: Bron Kotze
SANParks aircraft moving out. PHOTO: Bron Kotze
SANParks aircraft moving out. PHOTO: Bron Kotze
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SANParks helicopter then continued the search for at least another half hour until this point, when the helicopter reduced height drastically, and through binoculars, we could actually see the ranger hanging out the door (aiming to possibly dart an elephant?) PHOTO: Bron Kotze
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Up until now, I hadn’t seen any elephants, and suddenly, in this small open area, there he was! He looked a little bewildered, walked to the right, and then to the left…. in hindsight, I assume that he already had the dart in, and was starting to feel its effects… PHOTO: Bron Kotze
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Something very exciting…. a tracking collar seems visible above the ears, so my assumption was that this is Trail Blazer! He desperately wanted to come to Kruger! And very soon, he was on his way… PHOTO: Bron Kotze
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In this pic, he has dropped, exactly in that spot. (arrow) PHOTO: Bron Kotze
The helicopter went down to land. And within minutes, the team and vehicles started arriving.
The helicopter went down to land. And within minutes, the team and vehicles started arriving. PHOTO: Bron Kotze
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Within a couple of minutes, the straps had been placed around the ellie’s feet and carefully they started to hoist him up. Quite incredible to think that just minutes before, he was still walking around… PHOTO: Bron Kotze

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Within minutes, the trucks, helicopter and vehicles left the area (as shown by arrow), and when I zoomed out and packed the camera away, it was quite surreal to see that I was surrounded by several elephants, all very content and quiet. Just another day in Africa! PHOTO: Bron Kotze

Follow Bron Kotze on Mlondozi Self-catering Chalet. See more of her elephant relocation photos here.Β Β 

UPDATE ON THE WANDERING BULLS – by Elephants Alive

The journey never ends
🐘 Trailblazer has been through more than most elephants would ever face in their lifetime. Why he and his 10 companions have chosen to walk close to 800km ever since he was collared on the 30th of March 2022 in Mozambique by our passionate partners (The Mozambique Wildlife Alliance), is something we urgently need to understand and has thus become our mission.
🐘 As a group of young and adventurous bulls, they moved over 500km across the Mozambique landscape and 128km across eSwatini in a very directional manner towards South Africa (SA). In SA they pushed hard to head home to the Kruger National Park (KNP). On the 7th of May they entered SA in the early hours of the morning and travelled a further 100km north.
🐘 The last leg of their journey has been the hardest as sadly they were shot at, soon after entering SA. This ordeal resulted in them splitting up temporarily, but after regrouping they continued with their northern trajectory. Upon nearing their destination, we got word of an injured bull who was desperately trying to keep up with the group. We immediately rallied an expert vet and wildlife pilot to be on standby to treat the bull as dusk started approaching.
🐘 Again, the group had split into three. That night Trailblazer made the decision to continue the journey home on his own. He bravely tried four times to cross a densely populated residential area south of Mjejane. Miraculously he managed to head east to find KNP’s southern boundary at 4h00 in the morning where he paced the fence up and down until he was loaded onto a truck by KNP at 17h00 that same day (10 May). Sadly, he was the only bull able to find Kruger’s border, with the rest of the herd split between two different properties further south.
🐘 KNP managed to load four of these bulls before Trailblazer joined them on the truck. Regarding the injured bull, a decision was made by the KNP veterinarian team and the provincial administration (Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency) to have him euthanized. At dusk, the five loaded bulls were driven a 290km (straight line distance) to the north of Shingwedzi and were offloaded in the early hours of this morning close to the Mozambique border. The others are still out there somewhere trying to navigate a very fragmented conservation landscape.

MTPA Statement

The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA), in partnership with SANParks today confirmed it has successfully captured and relocated five of the eleven elephants. “We are delighted that the elephants are safe and have been captured and relocated safely. Our Wildlife Management team will continue to monitor the situation on the ground and look out for the remaining elephants which are believed to be with the breeding herds,” said Mduduzi Vilakazi, Acting CEO of the MTPA. Read the full story about the Elephants’ Trek from Mozambique to the Kruger National Park

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