How do you prepare to move 500 elephants?
The logistics associated with a translocation of this scale and complexity require months of intensive planning and preparation. African Parks is undertaking this immense task with our expert teams, and with contracted professionals from Conservation Solutions. The total distance that will be covered throughout the manoeuvres will roughly equate to 125,000km, which is equivalent to three times around the globe, using ten 30-ton rig trucks from South Africa for capture, delivery and return. Staff, trucks and equipment will have journeyed for five days through Botswana and Zimbabwe to be on site in Liwonde by early July, 2016. Within Liwonde, Majete and Nkhotakota, hundreds of kilometers of roads and river crossings have been repaired and constructed to improve both vehicle and animal accessibility. Road networks have been enhanced to facilitate the construction of the requisite fencing in Nkhotakota, including that of a 40,000-acre sanctuary and the 400,00 acres of the wider park. This additional infrastructure will be an invaluable asset to the parks’ tourism capacity and to the prevention of human-wildlife conflict, and is an important source of employment opportunities and revenue for local communities.
How do you move 500 elephants?
The elephant translocation will comprise a series of phases, each of which has been carefully planned to ensure minimal stress for the animals. Elephants will be darted by helicopter; retrieved from the field by crane and recovery trucks; and will then be awoken in purpose-built ‘wake-up’ crates before being loaded onto 30-ton low-bed trucks for their 350km journey to Nkhotakota. On arrival, the elephants will be released into a holding facility with food and water, protected by a perimeter of electric fencing. Following a period of between 12 and 24 hours, they will be released in to the the larger sanctuary.
What about other game?
An additional team will be mobilised to capture hundreds of warthog, buffalo, sable, kudu, eland, zebra, impala and waterbuck from Liwonde and Majete, which will be moved to Nkhotakota in order to restock the park with optimal numbers of game.
How does this translocation inform future conservation strategies?
As technology and veterinary innovations improve, and as we learn from experience, we are starting to gather a body of knowledge that will facilitate more extensive use of large-scale translocations as a conservation management tool in the future.