After months of extensive planning and preparation, African Park recently commenced the process of translocating 500 elephants from Liwonde National Park to Nkotakota Wildlife Reserve. Termed ‘500 Elephants’, the initiative is the largest ever translocation of elephants to a single reserve and is one of the most significant translocation initiatives in conservation history.
African Parks in collaboration with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) is moving the elephants and 1,500 other animals of varying species from Liwonde National Park in 2016 and thereafter Majete Wildlife Reserve in 2017. Central African Wilderness Safaris, which operates Mvuu Camp and Mvuu Lodge within Liwonde, is continuing to provide on-the-ground support to aid the teams that are working in the field to facilitate the translocation.
Commenting on the translocation, Chris Badger – Managing Director, Central African Wilderness Safaris said: “The relocation will have a huge beneficial effect for Nkotakhota with only a minimal short term impact on elephant viewing in Liwonde. This combined with some exciting relocations of plains game species and predators into Liwonde in the years ahead, will make this an exercise that will always have our unqualified support.”
The entire process comprises a series of phases and involves a dynamic team of conservationists, guides and veterinarians who are tirelessly working together to ensure a stress-free transition for the elephants. A total of 154 elephants were moved (as of 20th July) and released into their new home, 350 km away in Nkotankota. The translocation has generated immense media hype and reporters from around the world have covered the story and the mammoth task at hand.
The translocation is taking place in batches to keep herds together and selected elephants are being darted by helicopter and retrieved from the field by crane into recovery trucks. They are then woken up in purpose-built ‘wake-up’ crates before they are carefully loaded onto 30-ton low-bed trucks for their journey across the country. On arrival in Nkotakota Wildlife Reserve, the elephants are released into a holding facility with food and water. Following a period of 12 -24 hours which enables them to adjust to their surroundings, the elephants are released into the reserve itself.
Background information from African Parks (www.500elephants.org): Under mounting pressure from poaching, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict, the African elephant is being rapidly exterminated in many parts of the continent. In Malawi, Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve, located in the south of the country, are considered to be ‘source populations’ for elephants. In consideration of the size of the parks and the availability of natural resources, both parks are near to capacity, with approximately 800 elephants in Liwonde and 400 elephants in Majete. The density of these populations is resulting in the degradation of wildlife habitats and high levels of human-wildlife conflict, largely deriving from crop-raiding elephants, and the degradation of habitats. Exemplifying proactive conservation, ‘500 Elephants’ is an example of human-assisted migration, and is these elephants’ best hope for a sustainable future in which herds have the opportunity to stabilize and grow. The translocation will also help to build a healthy elephant population in Nkotakota Wildlife Reserve, which is also managed by African Parks along with Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve.
Source: African Parks
Images: © Will Whitford