Riff Raff the South African elephant dodges death sentence

HOEDSPRUIT, South Africa (Reuters) - Riff Raff the South African elephant who had faced a possible death sentence for knocking down fences and trampling on farmland has secured a reprieve after activists intervened.

Landowners in Hoedspruit near Kruger National Park had sought a court ruling to have the six-tonne bull elephant destroyed after he damaged their property.

Activists, who had tried to protect the elephant from angry landowners in 2017 by moving him away from the area only to find he wandered back, blocked a ruling against Riff Raff by saying it was natural for the animals to roam.

Activists from Humane Society International/Africa (HIS/Africa) and Global Supplies said killing him would be a “quick fix” to a biological and environmental issue.

Many communities across Africa living in areas where elephants roam complain about damage to their land by the world’s largest land mammals.

Fences surround many South African national parks but they rarely prove strong enough to put off a determined elephant.

HSI/Africa Director Audrey Delsink said any order to destroy Riff Raff would “be a tragedy not only for this amazing animal but for all so-called ‘problem’ elephants across South Africa who face a similar fate.”

As many as 50 destruction permits were issued against trespassing elephants between 2016 and 2017 in South Africa, according to the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group.

The World Wildlife Fund ranks elephants as a vulnerable species with the global population shrinking to 415,000 from 10 million in the last century due intense ivory poaching and a rapid loss of habitat due to human settlement.

Reporting by Naledi Mashishi and Sisipho Skweyiya; Editing by Edmund Blair