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Out and About with Josh Hibbett

The son of Henry and Debbie Hibbett who manage Ndlopfu shared the following experience with Ingwelala.

On Wednesday, 19 July 2017 we received a radio call from the Elephants Alive Research Team of a young elephant bull with wire wrapped around its right hind leg.

We immediately got the GPS coordinates (S24.16026 E31.40165) of the exact location of the elephant. We saw that it was on the De Luca Property and knew we were unable to proceed with any action without permission.

Josh Hibbett went to assist the Elephants Alive (EA) team with coordinating everything from the ground and to help with communications with Henry Hibbett in the office. The plan was to try and move the elephant towards and onto Ingwelala, however this was unsuccessful as the wire kept getting stuck around trees and the animal would not move.

As Mark Shaw was unavailable, Henry tried to contact Theo van Wyk or Lenny Wilson to get permission from their side. In the mean-time Henry had contacted Dr Peter Rogers, the local Vet, and he was on standby with a helicopter ready to come out upon the go ahead.

Riaan de Lange from Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority was contacted and the permission to go ahead with the removal of the wire was given.

We then discovered through Theo van Wyk that Paul Deluca was in residence and the approval for the operation to take place on his property required his permission. The message was passed onto Josh and both he and the EA team drove to the De Luca Homestead to obtain permission from Paul De Luca. Josh and the EA team spoke to Paul and explained the situation, that Dr Rogers was on standby and that the go ahead from Theo van Wyk was given. Theo also confirmed that the Umbabat would carry the cost of the operation. Paul Deluca gave the permission requested, Dr Rogers was then informed at 16h30 and the operation was to go ahead.

Josh then went and waited at the Ingwelala airstrip for the helicopter to land while the EA team went back to the elephant’s location. The chopper landed at 17h08.

Josh spoke to Dr Rogers, explaining where the elephant was located. The chopper went up and found the elephant without any problem. The animal was then darted, however, did not go down the first time so a second dart had to be put in, resulting in the bull going down right next to the road. Once the animal was down Josh, the EA team, the vet and pilot moved in.

Dr Rogers began to monitor the bull while the chopper pilot, Josh and the EA team began to untie the wire around the leg. This took a bit of time as the wire was wrapped tightly, but with much effort and team work the wire came free. The elephant had no cuts or wounds. Dr Rogers then gave the reverse drug and the bull woke up and walked off into the bush. With the efficient communications and co-operation of all involved, the entire operation took around 3 hours.

Thank you to Paul De Luca for his permission to carry out the operation and to Dr Rogers for his quick response and for calling the helicopter. Thank you to Henry Hibbett for making all the necessary phone calls and gaining the permissions needed. Well done to the EA Team”.


by John Llewellyn