The killing of a Lion by community members after it escaped from Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, a KZN Ezemvelo reserve, is now the second recent incident of a member of the Big Five being killed as a result of the ineptitude of this wildlife authority.

The killing comes in the wake of Ezemvelo culling 32 Buffalo last month – and regular escapes from the same park by packs of Wild Dog.

Fencing issues continue to dog Ezemvelo, with multi-million fencing contracts apparently not making any impact on the regular animal escapes from the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Although budgeted for and actioned, the fencing of the park remains inadequate and prone to both vandalism and animal escapes. In short, Ezemvelo has invested in infrastructure that simply is not good enough. Coupled with lengthy delays in fixing compromised infrastructure, more animal escapes and domestic herd incursions must be expected.

There are significant financial implications to these escapes, combined with a real threat to humans and the escaped animal ultimately dying. Constant Wild Dog escapes necessitate costly airborne and field ranger interventions, while Ezemvelo is held responsible for livestock deaths. This while KZN’s wildlife reserves are in dire need of more capital budget and effective financial management to curb the steady decline in animal numbers, poaching and community threats.

The DA expects KZN EDTEA MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube to sit up and take notice of what is happening within this entity. Equally, we expect her to hold Ezemvelo to account, particularly after being well aware of the entity’s shortcomings during budget close out reports. Her commitment to fixing Ezemvelo will be monitored closely by the DA, and we expect urgent action.

Simple yet effective ranger patrols – and the installation of a much anticipated ‘rabbit proof’ fence are a must for parks of this magnitude – a measure which must also include the Isimangaliso St Lucia Wetland Park, where incursions into the park by poachers and domestic animals are the norm. A similar situation exists within the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi park, with the once pristine Mpila Camp fence not fully completed, leaving overnight visitors at risk of animal attacks.

Similarly, damage to park fences by people are the symptom of ongoing failed relations between Ezemvelo and the communities who live near parks. Rural development is absent, the community levies are relatively insignificant and there is an often deep resentment toward wild animals that occupy prime grazing land.

The sad reality is that Ezemvelo management has lost control of its parks, while relations with nearby communities remain at a low point. Ultimately, it’s the very animals who pay with their lives for the failings of Ezemvelo.

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