A wind farm project near a nature reserve home to elephants in South Africa is causing concern among conservationists, who fear the turbines could harm elephants.
On one side is Addo Elephant National Park, home to about 600 elephants, in the south of the country. On the other hand, there is a project to build 200 wind turbines in a country in the midst of an energy crisis, desperately looking for ways to generate more electricity.
“It’s catastrophic,” William Foulds, a wildlife veterinarian who runs a lodge in the area, told AFP. He fears wind turbines will destroy the “wild side of safari”.
“We are not against wind turbines, but if you locate them in an area of high ecological value and ecotourism, you are destroying that environment and the lives of those who live there,” he criticizes.
In a country that experiences regular power outages, solar and wind power, which are still underutilized, represent serious alternatives. The continent’s foremost industrial power, which still derives 80% of its electricity from coal, is unable to produce enough, particularly due to dilapidated and poorly maintained power plants.
The Environment Ministry has given the go-ahead to wind farm builders, including France’s EDF, which last year rejected a call to block the whole thing. The ministry confirmed that an environmental impact study had been conducted.
It is not enough to convince the project’s critics, who said this week, to consider new legal action.
One concern is that infrasound communication between large terrestrial mammals could be seriously disrupted.
“There is a real risk that this could have an impact on the way they communicate” and their level of “stress,” warns Angela Stoeger-Horwath, an animal behaviorist at the University of Vienna. Wind turbines make a lot of noise.
Jenny Smithies, a nature guide and wildlife photographer, says elephants can get “aggressive.” Not to mention the degradation of the landscape, she says.
EDF already operates a wind farm about ten kilometers from the park. The group confirmed to AFP that it “has been working since 2015 and no complaint, problem or grievance has been raised,” claiming that it monitors the biodiversity of the site.