Airlink

Elephant shot after trampling handler – owner’s account

Elephant and person by waterhole

© Sarah Savory/Facebook

In a recent News Desk article, it was reported that an animal handler was trampled and gored by an elephant. The elephant was subsequently shot and killed.

Sarah Savory, whose father, Allan Savory is the founder of The Africa Centre For Holistic Management near Victoria Falls, wrote this piece below on her Facebook page providing an account of what happened between Dojiwe and her handler:

“I am going to write and let you all know the facts about the awful tragedy with our beloved Dojiwe on Wednesday this week…

This is going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever written as I am absolutely heart broken and devastated, to put it mildly. I will try to write factually and keep from getting emotional…

As most of you know, Dojiwe was orphaned 18 years ago as a very young elephant calf at our Africa Centre For Holistic Management near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We tried desperately to find her herd with no luck, so we took her in. The scout that found her all those years ago was a man named Simon and he has been one of her handlers ever since.

In the years we have had her, she has been kept in a boma only at night to protect her from lions.

During the day she would walk all day through the bush with Simon or her other handler. She was visited most nights by the wild herds and our hope was that as she grew up, one day she would leave us and join them.

In the last few years she started to do just that – she would run off from her handler and join a herd. At first it was always only for a night or two and then she’d be back with her handler, but in the last couple of years she would stay away longer and longer – the most recent was for two weeks before she returned. This was very encouraging to see her spending time in the wild.

As we were very concerned about lions and poachers, last year we managed to raise enough money to get her a tracking collar so at least we could monitor her movements and ensure she was safe.  Of considerable concern to us last year, was that she started to reject her other handler and seemed to only want to be with Simon. This got worse and worse until she absolutely only wanted Simon.

As you can imagine, this was very hard on Simon because every time he tried to have a couple of days break, she got very upset and would run after him and refused to return to her boma or regular patrol area and would wait near the road for him. We tried desperately to find another handler for her but she rejected everyone we introduced to her.

We then thought that perhaps, the more she rejected people, the stronger the possibility she would finally join a herd for good. We also tried very hard for years to get another orphaned elephant as a companion for her but it’s just not that simple. We also had a suspicion that she might be pregnant which would possibly explain the change in behavior but the vet confirmed she wasn’t.

Simon had to have a break a few days ago and he left Dojiwe in the boma as usual. After he’d gone, Hazel and James went to take her out and walk her, hoping to distract her from Simon leaving…James and Hazel were walking in front of her and she suddenly just grabbed Hazel with her trunk and threw her to the ground, then she turned on James and badly mauled him. She stopped and someone led her off with some cubes and they managed to get into a vehicle and rush James to hospital – he remains in critical condition in Bulawayo hospital.

For the rest of the day Dojiwe just went on a rampage, chasing everybody, attacking cars and breaking buildings. She was obviously extremely upset, confused and agitated and wanting Simon. She was literally having a temper tantrum. Every possible effort was made by everyone of us to locate Simon and get him to come and calm her down but he could not be reached. Eventually there was no other course of action but for the vet to be phoned and asked to come and tranquilize her because it was obvious she was going to hurt herself or someone else. The vet came but said he was unable to get close enough to dart her before she charged him… his assistant had no choice but to shoot her.

It is a tragedy of epic proportions and one that is, tragically, all too common with wild animals.

All I can say is we are beyond devastated to have lost one of the most beautiful souls I have ever known. We have so much more to learn about animals.  I don’t think there was ever an animal that was more loved by everyone who knew her. She was just the most special girl in the world and I loved her with all my heart.

My children and I will miss her more than words can ever say. Our lives will never be the same again. What a privilege it was to have 18 wonderful years with you our beautiful Dojiwe.”

Elephant walking with two children and a dog

© Sarah Savory/Facebook

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  • Rika

    Sarah, children and handlers my sincere condolences with the loss of an elephant friend after so many years. I’m so sorry it ended this way and pray for James’ recovery. Thanks for the work you do to rescue animals.

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