Beyers Coetzee, a South African architect-turned-conservationist, was trampled and killed by two elephant bulls on Mawana Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal last week.
Coetzee was trying to escort the elephants back onto Mawana’s property. He fired two shots into the air in an attempt to scare them in the right direction, causing the males to charge and trample him, according to Johannes van der Walt, Coetzee’s brother-in-law, who spoke to News24.
Coetzee was in the process of establishing a reserve dedicated to protecting and conserving these elephants. Mawana was created as part of Loziba Wilderness Project in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The reserve is a joint venture of private and community-owned land that spans over 40,000 hectares.
As a result of his death, authorities have considered culling the 32 strong herd. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesperson Musa Mntambo said that the circumstances still need to be investigated. Only once this is done will a decision of the elephants’ fate be made.
‘We are in the business of conserving animals and the decision to destroy any animal is taken with a heavy heart, in most cases only to prevent further loss of human life,’ said Mntambo to News24.
Both the Coetzee and van der Walt families have pleaded for the animals to be spared. Before Coetzee’s intervention in the reserve, Mawana had been issued a final letter of non-compliance, demanding the fences be fixed as elephants kept wandering to surrounding communities.
Coetzee was involved in fixing the fences to ensure full compliance and to prevent the elephants from being killed on the grounds of being damage-causing animals.
Speaking to News24, conservationist Dereck Milburn said that Coetzee was besotted with the Loziba Wilderness. ‘He lived for it, it was his pride and joy,’ said Milburn.