Cape Town – The family of an elephant guide who was killed by an elephant at the weekend have been left devastated by his death.
The tragic incident happened on Saturday afternoon at Knysna Elephant Park.
According to the Park’s spokesperson Erin Shattock, elephant guide Shepherd Chuma, 42, lost his life while he and other guides were returning a group of elephants to their night camp after a day spent in the free-roaming camp adjacent to the Park, where they often go to forage in the bush.
“Saturday’s severe weather conditions are thought to have been a contributing factor to the elephant’s unprecedented behaviour. Shepherd, a dedicated Knysna Elephant Park employee for over 10 years, was a favourite among the elephants and was loved and respected by his colleagues and friends. Many a guest and volunteer will remember him for his friendly demeanour and his ever-present radiant smile,” Shattock said.
Speaking on behalf of Shepherd’s family, Abigail Moyo said they were devastated by the tragic news.
“We are still processing the news and we are shocked. Shepherd left for work and we did not know he will not return. We were told around 9pm on Saturday about his passing,” Moyo said.
Shepherd leaves behind his two children and wife.
Abigail said this was not the first incident where an elephant charged Shepherd.
“Luckily last time, he survived. He is not the first person to die there. I think he has told of two deaths in that park before, and we are not happy that we have not been to the place where he died to perform our rituals. It is business as usual at the park, yet we are mourning,” she said.
Shattock denied that the family was not afforded time to perform their rituals.
“Emergency protocols were followed immediately. As the incident happened late afternoon on Saturday, it was important for us to attend to his immediate family sensitively while respecting their cultural beliefs. At the end of the workday, we were still attending to medical and emergency services. The staff were informed on Sunday morning by management,” she said.
Scores of people who once visited the park shared their condolences on Facebook as Shepherd was a well-known elephant guide.
In a separate incident, a South African tourist was trampled to death by an elephant in front of his son at a wildlife park in Zimbabwe on Wednesday last week.
The incident happened in Mana Pools National Park along the Zambezi River.
Michael Bernard Walsh, 71, a veterinarian from Cape Town, was charged at by a female elephant. Zimbabwe has the second-largest number of elephants in the world.