Mammoth of a task: How 30 elephants were moved from SA to Mozambique

2018-07-09 10:14
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(Photo: Supplied, iSimangaliso National Park)

A diverse cross-section of conservation groups and organisations were involved in what was the largest single translocation of elephants from the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Thirty elephants from the uMkhuze section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park were donated and moved to the Zinave National Park situated in the Mozambique component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area.

SEE: #EcoTravel: Tap into nature's healing at iSimangaliso

This is a part of an attempt to assist the park, co-managed by Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) and Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), in rewilding the 408 000 hectares protected area.

The Zinave National Park, which the elephants will now call home, is a pristine area near Vilankulos in Mozambique which had, until recently, been left largely devoid of wildlife following the civil war and strife that affected the country.

With the situation largely stabilised and the area under protection once more, the PPF has, over the past two years, introduced over 1 200 animals into the park injecting the area with a new sense of hope in a region seen as being rich with promise for a new era of conservation.

 (Photo: Supplied, iSimangaliso National Park)

Bernard van Lente, PPF’s Project Manager in Zinave, said that “Zinave offers prime elephant habitat, more than sufficient water resources, and only a handful of local elephants – positioning the uMkhuze elephants, along with 24 donated by the Ithala Game Reserve, to proliferate as the progenitors of a thriving new elephant population.”

“The elephants were initially released into an electrically-fenced 18 600 hectare sanctuary. This will allow them to settle into their new environment and be introduced to the family herd that has been resident in the sanctuary for the past year. The Park’s protection capabilities were also recently reinforced with 26 new rangers, ranger base camps, patrol equipment and digital communication systems – all as part of advanced and integrated anti-poaching strategies.”

 (Photo: Supplied, iSimangaliso National Park)

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At present, iSimangaliso has over 200 elephants between the uMkhuze, Eastern and Western Shores sections of the national park. This number is particularly interesting considering that iSimangaliso embarked on a campaign of elephant contraception some years ago to stymie the increase in numbers at a time when births were increasing at around 10% per annum.

Elephants require a substantial amount of terrain and are notorious for their impact on the landscapes and spaces they inhabit.

 (Photo: Supplied, iSimangaliso National Park)

But just how are the elephants captured?

Elephants are animals that develop and form strong familial bonds, headed by matriarch and offspring, thus it is of utmost importance to ensure that the entire unit is captured. Making use of tracking collars that have been placed on the matriarchs and regular in-field monitoring, the familial units to be captured were identified with relative ease.

The elephants, once immobilised are moved into crates wherein they are given an antidote to reverse the effects of the immobilising drugs as well as strong tranquillisers to ensure that the elephants are calm during the trip. The elephants are then loaded into crates in the company of their family which helps to calm them down.

At this point, the precious cargo was taken from uMkhuze to Zinave, via eSwatini, on a 1 200km long drive with regular checks to make sure the animals are in good shape. Upon arrival, they are released immediately into secure bomas where they are left to discover, of their own volition, the pristine new terrain that is now their home.  

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 (Photo: Supplied, iSimangaliso National Park)

 (Photo: Supplied, iSimangaliso National Park)

 (Photo: Supplied, iSimangaliso National Park)

 (Photo: Supplied, iSimangaliso National Park)

 (Photo: Supplied, iSimangaliso National Park)