An elephant that is usually giving tourists rides has today impaled his handler on the stick he used to control the animal. Enock Kufandada, 50, was charged, trampled and torn apart by a bull elephant called Mbanje in Zimbabwe before colleagues could come to his aid. Authorities then shot the animal dead. Elephants are wild animals and this comes as little surprise to me really.
Graphic pictures of his dismembered body seen by MailOnline show an open stab wound in his chest which is thought to have been caused by the stick he was carrying. Clement Mukwasi of the Employers Association of Tourism and Safari Operators hinted elephants can ‘keep grudges’ for many years against a handler if it has ever been mistreated during the process of training it for tourist rides. I would argue the entire process of training elephants to give rides to tourists is mistreatment.
The elephant, who gave rides at Victoria Falls, was shot dead after trampling his handler to death just minutes before taking tourists out beside the famous Zambezi River. Horrified officials ensured tourists from the UK and USA waiting for rides were kept well away from the shocking scene and called in park rangers.
Mbanje – which means ‘cannabis’ – was still in a rage and was deemed a danger to humans so it was brought down and killed with several high velocity bullets. Workers said Mr Kufandada had been attacked twice before by the same elephant but survived. Mr Kufandada’s blood-soaked body was covered with sack cloth until the local police force had been called to the scene and then it was removed from the tourist area at Victoria Falls.
Witnesses told local media that they heard screams and found the dead body torn apart and the 30-year-old bull elephant nearby clearly still enraged and in a bad temper. He’s a wild animal though. Poking and prodding animals with sticks hardly guarantees safety. Mr Kufandada was preparing to take the bull elephant which he had worked with for many years out of its pen for a tourist ride when it attacked and killed him. Victoria Falls District Chief Superintendent of police Jairos Chiwona said: “I confirm we received a report of a man who was attacked and killed by a domesticated elephant”.
I’d disagree with the word domesticated. A cat or a dog might be considered domesticated. But an elephant? What a load of crap.
Adventure Zone boss Mr Brent Wlliamson said: “I am in complete shock about the whole incident. This was one of our guides who had been working for us since 2005. It’s with deep regret that we advise that at 2.30pm on Saturday our domesticated elephant bull charged one of our staff that resulted in him losing his life.” There is that word “domesticated” again. An elephant is NOT domesticated. They have been taken from the wild and will never be domesticated.
This is not the first such instance of course. Just two years ago a curio-seller was trampled to death by an elephant which had strayed into a shopping centre in Victoria Falls which is on the border with Zambia.
Glynnis Vaughan, chief inspector of the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, claims African elephants can never be ‘domesticated’.She said: “Captured elephants which are used by several tourist companies have killed quite a few people in recent years. We should not be surprised when there are tragedies. Elephants are captured in the wild when they are young and taken from their families and teaching a young elephant to kneel so a tourist can mount it is vicious and it is cruel”.
Several large companies in Victoria Falls still provide rides for tourists on their elephants, most of which were captured and taken from their families. There are a number of companies at Victoria Falls – one of Africa’s most spectacular places to visit – which cater for tourist rides on African elephants. Just last week game rangers shot and killed two other elephants which had roamed into the provincial capital of Mutare, East Zimbabwe, and killed a policeman.
Bankrupt Zimbabwe has been exporting dozens of young elephants to China in recent years for wildlife safari parks that have since been condemned by inspectors. Tour operators at the Falls desperate to protect their livelihoods said the killing of the professional elephant handler was “a freak accident – one in a million”. I’d suggest it is not an accident at all, but just the inevitable consequence of taking wild animals and pretending they are tame and safe.