An elephant who will be shot if he doesn’t stop destroying crops is to be moved 300 miles away because he keeps returning to the reserve he’s lived in for 45 years despite being relocated.
Six-and-a-half tonne bull elephant Riff Raff has been branded a nuisance by villagers, who threatened to kill him after he repeatedly trampled fences to feast on their farmland.
A huge operation five months ago to move him 40 miles to a new home failed – when Riff Raff marched back within 48 hours, leaving a trail of broken fences in his wake.
Now the Humane Society International is in a race to save Riff Raff from the bullet.
They want to transport him to a third reserve hundreds of miles from his home in Limpopo province, South Africa, where he would have to cross mountains and motorways to get back.
Audrey Delsink, the charity’s executive director, said: “If he stays, he’ll almost certainly be killed.”
Bull elephants usually live for around 70 years, meaning Riff Raff should have another 25 years ahead of him.
Ms Delsink said of the planned move: “He’ll be the oldest, most dominant bull in a much larger reserve – with many new, unrelated females.
“At 45, he’s a prime bull. He’ll be the females’ first choice, so will definitely be siring offspring for many years to come.
“This is utopia for a bull elephant wanting to mate.”
The operation to give Riff Raff a new permanent home will cost up to £7,000, involving a tracking helicopter, a crew of experts, a crane and giant crates.
He has lived at a 50,000-acre private nature reserve in Limpopo province all his life, and has been monitored for 18 years.
But at the start of this year, farmers complained he had trampled fences and helped himself to crops.
Riff Raff, who is at the top of his herd’s hierarchy, symbolises the growing conflict between humans and wildlife over land in Africa as human populations expand.
Up to 50 “problem” elephants were legally killed in the last year.
Ms Delsink said: “It’s not the fault of these amazing creatures that humans want to share their land, we have to find non-lethal solutions.
“It’s a problem South Africa’s wildlife faces time and again, as fences prevent migration.
“Just killing wildlife who get in our way is not the answer.”