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Monday, 14 February, 2000, 16:24 GMT
Elephants kill endangered rhino

Clashes between elephants and rhinos are not uncommon


Aggressive young orphaned elephants are reported to have killed 36 rhinos, including rare black ones, in a game park in eastern South Africa.



The rhinos were ripped to pieces
Vet Dave Cooper
According to conservationists, the young elephants have been provoking confrontations with the rhinos since they were introduced to Hluhluwe-Umofolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal.

The elephants were orphaned when their parents were culled in the early 1990s in an effort to control the elephant population in Kruger National Park.

As they have matured, so they have become more aggressive.

Attacks on rhinos have been growing over the past two years, with 13 killed, including two black rhino, in the last five months of 1999, South African newspapers report.

Spate of killings

A park ranger said he had witnessed an elephant knocking a rhino over, trampling it and driving a tusk through its chest.

Conservation vet Dave Cooper said: "There was a spate of killings, and it was as if they were purposeful. The rhinos were ripped to pieces."

An endangered species - especially in Hluhluwe-Umofolozi Park
He said that elephant and rhino routinely clash in nature "but this sort of behaviour, when elephant actively go out and chase rhino, is totally abnormal".

Fellow conservationist Tony Conway said similarly aggressive behaviour had also been seen in Pilanesberg National Park in Northwest Province - another home for the Kruger Park orphaned elephants.

However, the killings at Pilanesberg stopped when six adult elephant bulls were introduced to the park. The young ones' behaviour patterns returned to normal under their influence.

Officials at Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park have asked Kruger Park to send it 10 adult bulls in the hope that their presence will have the same effect on the young elephants there.

The park's top attractions are its rhino - both the white or square-lipped rhino and the rarer black or hooked-lipped rhino.

There are only about 1,000 black rhino left in South Africa.

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