Watch: Poachers fire at elephant-viewing tour boat; ‘scariest day of my life’

A dozen people aboard an elephant-viewing tour boat in South Africa were forced to duck for cover when they came under fire by poachers Wednesday morning.

It occurred on the eastern shores of the Jozini/Pongolapoort Dam, located on the southern border between South Africa and Eswatini.

Several shots were fired at the double-decker tour boat Jozenic, allegedly by a group of nearly 20 armed men linked to the recent slaughter of about 25 elephants and other illegal wildlife poaching activity around Jozini Dam, according to the Daily Maverick.

Video footage captures the scary moment as the tour boat driver shifted into high gear and the guide yelled for the passengers to “lie down, lie flat, flat, flat.” Two sounds that might be shots can be heard early in the video, though it’s unclear whether that was part of the gunfire.

On board at the time were five Germans, two Americans, one Australian and four South Africans, including local elephant and rhino monitor Suzette Boshoff, who described the attack as “the scariest day of my life.”

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Several elephant carcasses have been discovered along the shoreline of Jozini Dam in recent months. They are part of a herd of more than 70 elephants originating from the private Pongola Game Reserve that roamed into the area during a severe drought seven years ago.

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The herd later ran into conflict with rural communities — culminating in the death of a local resident in September 2022, who was trampled by an elephant cow.

The exact circumstances of that incident remain unclear, but it is understood that the cow went on the attack in retaliation for the killing of its calf by elephant poachers.

Some sources have suggested that the death of resident Bheki Nyawo triggered a family vendetta against the herd, leading to the killing of up to 25 elephants in the area over recent months.

“Armed groups of poachers have now completely laid siege to the eastern shores of the lake, with several elephant carcasses recently found, while dozens of gunshots have also been reported in the region,” Heinz de Boer, a Democratic Alliance member of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, told the Daily Maverick.

“Guards near the Eswatini border have allegedly also come under attack and infrastructure damaged and torched by the armed gang.

“Furthermore, the DA has now also received video and photographic evidence of a tour boat coming under fire by armed gangs who continue to lay illegal gill nets in the lake…

“The DA will escalate the ongoing war against poaching to the highest levels of government and demands the swift arrests of those who believe they can destroy our natural heritage and tourism sector. The situation can no longer continue.”

Generic photo of African elephants courtesy of Wikipedia Commons; image of tourists ducking for cover courtesy of tour guide aboard the Jozenic.

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Story originally appeared on For The Win