Nkhotakota — Authorities managing Nkhotakota Wild Life Reserve, the African Parks (AP) have said frequent elephant breakouts from the sanctuary is caused by habitual fence breakers (animals) that were transferred from Liwonde National Park last year.
AP Park Manager, Samuel Kamoto said the elephants that have broken out of the fence 72 times from July to August this year, are led by trouble makers (elephants) that are well known for fence-breaking.
"A few animals are habitual fence-breakers, they can give problems at times but we assure you that we identify these trouble makers. It is not a big challenge because we can minimize the number of times the animals give trouble," said the manager.
Kamoto also attributed the frequent breakouts to community members dwelling and farming close to the protected area, adding that the wild animals are attracted to crops that are cultivated just outside the fence.
He dismissed reports that the frequent breakouts are due to the scarcity of food and water inside the reserve.
"Of course, we are yet to experience much rains as the rainy season has just started. But the reserve has big water pools in the giant Kaombe River. Not only that, but elephants feed on herbs and I can assure you that the reserve has abundant vegetation for the animals.
"However, plants like bananas, mangoes and cassava attract the animals to abandon their shelter and taste the foods that are cultivated closer to their dwelling place," he said.
But Kamoto advised people not to panic, saying they have so far identified the trouble makers such that the law enforcers follow them through a tracking system.
"Elephants are fast learners and we assure the general public that with time, the elephants will learn. We have also collared elephant family heads of almost all existing herds so that we trace them wherever they go.
"Through the tracking system, AP will send them back into the sanctuary within 12 hours if they happen to breakout," he assured.
The official expressed pleasure that no human being had been attacked by the animals during the four months of frequent breakouts.
Traditional Authority Mwansambo who is also chairperson of Forest's Joint Liaison Committee said local leaders were orienting the communities on how dangerous the wild animals become when provoked.
This, he said, was to make people appreciate the importance of living and cultivating away from the wildlife reserve.
"We also advise them on what they should do in order to reduce wild life breakouts and attacks," explained Mwansambo.
He however pointed out that there was need for a clear agreement between the people and government to find out where communities living and farming closer to the protected area will be relocated and how they will be compensated.