A group of 15 elephants invaded land in a community in southern Mozambique, destroying crops, a source of the country’s Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC) told Lusa on Tuesday.

The animals have been circulating “for some time” through Mahele, Magude district, near the border with South Africa, about 150 kilometres northwest of the capital, Maputo, said Carlos Lopes, ANAC’s director of protection and enforcement.

“They have been causing problems in fields and vegetable patches” he added.

Although the origin of the elephants has not yet been confirmed, authorities suspect the animals have escaped from a wild animal farm whose fence has been torn down.

“People living in the community stole solar panels and batteries along the fence that protected the area,” Carlos Lopes said.

The stolen material electrified the fence and prevented the animals from crossing.

“We want to capture and relocate the elephants as soon as possible and that depends on repairing the fence,” he said.

Meanwhile, “scaring kits” have been distributed to trained people in the district and the animals are being followed.

According to ANAC data, Mozambique has an estimated population of 10,800 elephants, a number that has remained stable since 2014 despite the threats to the species.