One of the 11 young and adventurous bull elephants that walked over 700 km from Mozambique to the Kruger National Park, has sadly had to be euthanised due to severe injury. The elephant had tried so valiantly to keep up with the rest of the herd, and was filmed limping behind Trailblazer (see video below), but ultimately was suffering too much.
Elephants Alive – which had brought the trek of the elephants to the world’s attention – said the decision to euthanise the injured bull was taken by the Kruger National Park veterinarian team and the provincial administration (Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency).
In an update on Wednesday afternoon, Elephants Alive said the five bulls which had been safely and fortunately relocated by a joint SANParks and MTPA operation, were offloaded early Wednesday morning close to the Mozambique border.
Of the missing five, they said they are “still out there somewhere trying to navigate a very fragmented conservation landscape”.
A heavy-hearted Elephants Alive said “the journey never ends” and that Trailblazer – who led the elephants from Mozambique back to his home, the Kruger National Park, “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.”
Sadly, after walking through Mozambique and eSwatini (Swaziland) – where the elephants were given safe passage to continue their journey – the hardest part was the South African section, where unfortunately they were shot at soon after entering SA on Saturday 7 May.
« We as South Africans need to lean into the discomfort and increase our tolerance towards wildlife if we compare how both the Mozambicans and Eswatini citizens cheered the group of 11 elephants along their journey. We can not afford to truck all courageous elephants like Trailblazer back to protected areas or simply destroy them if they enter our world, » said Michelle Henley on Elephants Alive’s Facebook page.
Taking lessons from the animals, Michelle says these wandering bulls have taught us « the world we have left for them is too small » and wild species have become refugees. »
Elephants Alive is on a fund-raising campaign to establish an emergency fund for future elephants – « to enable us to keep collaring path-finding elephants like Trailblazer so that we can warn people ahead of their journey to ensure the safety of both people and elephants. For the entire Mozambique and Eswatini legs of their journey, we successfully did so without any incidents ».
Michelle says « help us to help them in respect of their courageous journeys » so they can cross borders in peace.
WATCH The injured elephant – that has since been euthanised – is seen here, with a limp, trying to keep up with Trailblazer before they reached the Kruger
Elephants Alive says: «Scenes likes this are a necessary reminder of their compassion towards each other – leaving no one behind.»