The Race Is On To Save Riff Raff The Elephant
Riff Raff is a 6.5 tonne bull elephant that has fathered more than his fair share of calves and has certainly contributed towards the cause of helping save his species for future generations. Hopefully this guy will be allowed to live because as things stand he is in danger of being killed by villagers in the South African province of Limpopo who see him as a nuisance because he raids their crops. Riff Raff doesn’t seem too interested in any rescue which required a massive operation to move him and failed the first time. He simply chose march home again.
Conservationists are hoping to try and save his life once more and move him to another reserve, this time one that is much further away. If they do manage to move him, Riff Raff would have the impossible task of crossing roads and mountains if he tries to get back home again. In the new larger reserve, he would be the oldest and most dominant bull and there would be plenty of new females that are unrelated which sounds like paradise for a bull elephant on the pull!
Farmers are unhappy
Moving Riff Raff is not going to be cheap and will cost in excess of £7,000 and include a helicopter, a team of experts and a special lifting crane. Riff Raff is now 45 years old and has lived in Limpopo his entire life. Over the last few months however, farmers in the park have complained that he has been trampling their fences and feeding on their crops and say they will shoot him in response. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of options because if he does stay he will be killed.
Loss of a prime bull elephant would be devastating
Conservationists say his killing would not only be a tragedy but because he is 45 Riff Raff is what is known as a prime bull and will be the first choice of females when it comes to mating. This means he has the ability to continue to sire offspring for many more years and therefore it is important to ensure he remains safe. Riff Raff sits at the apex of his herd’s hierarchy. He is a symbol of the increasing human animal conflict over land on the African continent and indeed around the world. Human population has expanded leading to habitat encroachment and a fight over increasingly scarce resources.
South Africa has managed to protect all of its 24,000 elephants who live in national parks or private reserves. Unfortunately, as male elephants age, they tend to stray from their herds seeking out new territory and females. This means more often than not they come across fencing which they destroy. Elephants who do this repeatedly usually end up being killed and during 2016-2017 there were 50 permits issued in South Africa to destroy these so-called problem elephants.
Second time’s the charm
The original effort to relocate Riff Raff failed after he marched home within 48 hours of being moved and conservationists are worried that he will be shot before they have had a second attempt at moving him further away. After he is moved wildlife experts believe he will settle in by exploring the new territory and familiarise himself with his new digs. They hope given the distance between his old and new homes and the significant obstacles between them he will be unable to simply walk back. The move does represent a second chance but there is no guarantee of success.