egilio

Large scale elephant relocation in Malawi

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African Parks is planning to move ~500 elephants from Liwonde NP and Majete GR, where elephant densities are high, to Nkhotakota NP, where elephants are almost completely wiped out, in Malawi.

Read more about it here.

Some experts are concerned about animal welfare issues. What are your thoughts on this project?

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I think it is a great project. In the one hand, it will help to reborn the once neglected Nkhotakota protected area, and on the other hand, it will help to reduce the pressure from elephants in the overpopulated Liwonde and Majete parks.

 

I don't know who is Richard Ssuna, it is definitely right to be concerned by such a massive plan. However, this is not the first time such a huge move will be done in the world and in the country. Majete received hundreds of elephants from Liwonde a decade ago and both populations are thrived since then.

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@jeremie Richard Ssuna is I assume a vet because All Creatures is a Malawian animal welfare organisation founded by a group of vets based in Lilongwe I presume that most of their veterinary work is treating domestic animals and that if they occasionally treat wild animals in Lilongwe it’s not likely to ever include elephants. Therefore while they have every right to express their concerns I would question how much knowledge or experience they have of dealing with elephants.

 

I had been meaning to post a longer reply to this but then I decided that I will add what I've written about this to something I intend to post in another thread in a day or two.

 

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I would be interested to hear (i) if the logistics worked out feasibly, and (ii) if the elephants (once translocated) stay, or just hike back to where they came from.

 

If this operation is a success it could be a useful blue print for reliving elephant overcrowding (Hwange, Chobe, Kruger etc) to areas that can absorb more elephants (Kafue, Nsumbu ect).

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I've often heard that in areas where there was an overpopulation of elephants,either culling or hunting was necessary;I heard that translocation was simply too expensive.If a country which is as poor as Malawi and lacks tourists can do this, I wonder if this can be done in the future in other countries. ZaminOz raises a very valid point that the elephants may return to where they came from.

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The economic state of Malawi has little to do with this as the whole operation is paid by African Parks. What does help is the accessibility of all 3 parks and the state of the roads in Malawi. The roads are good and tarred, and all parks easily accessible and fairly close to each other.

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After I first saw this thread I thought I would post a reply but then decided to expand what I was writing and add it to the debate about fences instead because it seemed to be particularly relevant to that topic.

 

However I will say the following in response to an early comment.

 

The Nkhotakota Reserve in Malawi has been badly neglected in recent years not only has the elephant population been reduced to around only 120 but other herbivores have also been subjected to heavy poaching and as a result have similarily declined and in some cases it's though have disappeared entirely. This loss of big game has badly affected tourism to the reserve the number of visitors has gone down noticably. It’s not just elephants that are being translocated other species like buffalo, plains zebras, kudu, roan, Licthenstein’s hartebeest amongst others will be brought to the reserve.To provide a safe area for these animals and allow them to breed before they are released into the main reserve a 170km² fenced sanctuary has been (or is being) constructed. Those species that are found in Liwonde and Majete in adequate numbers will be introduced as soon as is appropriate once the sanctuary is ready, animals of some of the other species have yet to be sourced. The elephants 250 from Liwonde NP this year and the rest next year from Majete and possibly a few more from Liwonde will be kept in this sanctuary until they have settled in and only then will they be released into the main reserve, this I believe this will in turn eventually be entirely fenced. There shouldn’t therefore be any possibility of them trying to leave and return home. The re-establishment of the park’s elephant population along with the return of other species will be good ecologically and should also revive tourism in Nkhotakota providing employment and benefiting the local economy.

 

This move is really only possible thanks to the involvement of African Parks and their ability to secure donor funding.

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This translocation is undoubtedly a massive effort, made only possible by the specific circumstances of Malawi (isolated protected areas small enough to be fenced, decent infrastructures) and the involvement and vision of African Parks (and its backers). At least from Liwonde, elephants will be moved in small family groups (of around 20 individuals) and bulls separately.

 

We will attend and participate to a couple of those captures and translocations from Liwonde to Nkhotakota at the end of thecurrent month, and I am sure it will be an utmost interesting and once in a lifetime experience.

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As you say a massive undertaking and I wish it every success.

 

Looking forward to hearing about your trip when you get back @Paolo

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13 more elephants offloaded tonight, form Liwonde NP (you can follow this huge event on the Nkhotakota Facebook webpage).

The first 102 waterbucks where released in the fenced sanctuary. They are coming from Majete Game reserve.

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And those elephants broke out of the sanctuary, pushed over a tree onto the fence. Hopefully they don't run straight out of the park.

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@@Paolo That will be an amazing experience. Looking forward to hearing about it.

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Posted (edited)

The translocation is making huge advances, you can follow the move on the oficial website here:

http://500elephants.org

 

There is further explanations here:

http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=31a2a8f9bbef669281a70dd6a&id=74c0e2ff40&e=d62687f7ea

http://500elephants.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/500-Elephants-Infographic.pdf

 

One of the world’s largest and most significant elephant translocations kicked off on July 3rd from within Liwonde National Park. In just one week, and as of today, 92 elephants have been successfully captured from Liwonde, transported 450 kilometres by truck, and released in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, all within Malawi. Of the 92 individuals, six are bulls and the rest are family units made up of matriarchs and their young.

African Parks is leading the translocation of up to five hundred elephants from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve from southern Malawi to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in central Malawi. All three reserves are managed by African Parks in partnership with the Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW). Two hundred and fifty elephants are being moved over July and August this year from Liwonde, with another 250 being moved from Liwonde and Majete combined in 2017. In addition to these elephants, thousands of other animals including sable, waterbuck, zebra, kudu, eland and warthogs are also being translocated all with the goal of repopulating Nkhotakota and restoring it to its former glory after years of rampant poaching.

The operation has two objectives: to relieve pressure from the elephant surplus in Liwonde and Majete, and to restock Nkhotakota which supported more than 1,500 elephants 20 years ago, but today has fewer than 100. Liwonde and Majete are source populations for elephants and are at or nearing capacity (with populations of 800 and 400 elephants respectively), resulting in habitat degradation and high levels of human-wildlife conflict. As Malawi is a densely-populated, agro-based country, no ecological corridors exist to allow for natural migration. The “500 Elephants” initiative is a human-assisted migration providing the best chance of a long-term and sustainable future for these elephants.

“Having just returned from Liwonde, I am thrilled with progress made so far in just the past week” said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks. “This translocation is a very specialised operation and a massive logistical challenge, but we’ve assembled the best possible team of experts to undertake such a feat”. Only cohesive family units are moved together to limit stress and prevent the destabilisation of family groups; the capture and translocation is extremely well managed with an array of short, medium, and long-acting tranquilisers which mitigate and control stress responses.

 

African Parks has spent the last nine months preparing for the giant move which has included the grading and creation of road networks, perimeter fencing of both Liwonde and Nkhotakota, the creation of a sanctuary within Nkhotakota for the newly released elephants, and the hiring of hundreds of local employees to carry out the infrastructure developments positively impacting the local economy. Importantly, since assuming management of Nkhotakota last year, African Parks has completely overhauled the law enforcement and anti-poaching efforts allowing for the safe restocking of wildlife to the reserve.

Under mounting pressure from poaching, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict, the African elephant is being increasingly threatened in many parts of the continent. Numbering more than 10,000,000 a century ago, recent census results indicate they have been reduced to fewer than 450,000. With as many as 40,000 elephants being poached every year to feed the insatiable demand for ivory, their rate of offtake now outstrips their birth rate putting their long-term survival at risk.

“Most stories we hear about elephants in Africa are doom and gloom” continued Peter Fearnhead; “this translocation of 500 elephants, which is a pivotal moment for Malawi who is emerging as a leader in African elephant conservation, is a story of hope and survival; it’s a story of possibility”. African Parks is responsible for managing approximately 90% of Malawi’s elephant population, as well as almost 15,000 elephants combined among all the parks under their management across Africa.

This giant initiative has been made possible with the generous support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery, The Wyss Foundation, The Wildcat Foundation, Donna and Marvin Schwartz, Dioraphte, and the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Edited by jeremie
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Africa parks is well regarded, I take it that they have considered all the issues carefully and the scheme should work out well

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I'm sure they did, and I can't think of any other option. 2 parks with animals near, or at, carrying capacity, and one park almost devoid of wildlife. It's pretty impressive how quickly they set things up. Took over management last year, and in one year they selected, trained and outfitted an anti-poaching team in Nkhotakota, selected workers, resources to fence the park and create the boma. Plan and set up this massive operation. No small task, but it shows what can be done by a well organized group of dedicated people, back with proper funding.

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Posted (edited)

APN released an update about the 2016 elephants translocation project. First phase is about to come to end, next year the Second phase will be launched.

 

http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=31a2a8f9bbef669281a70dd6a&id=78c49afd5b

 

 

It’s been a busy month in Malawi with the ‘500 Elephants’ initiative where we’re in the process of moving up to 500 elephants from Liwonde and Majete to Nkhotakota, all of which are managed by African Parks in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife.

I’ve just returned from my second trip to Malawi during this translocation and am thrilled with the progress so far. As of today, 210 elephants have been successfully translocated to Nkhotakota, with just 40 more to go before the end of this first capture period to conclude mid-August. Of those 210, 18 are mature bulls, and the rest are family units. Unfortunately, we had one casualty – a female elephant, whom we determined afterwards was very old and who sadly could not withstand the anesthesia. Her family unit however remained intact and is doing well in Nkhotakota.

Safety and stress management are important considerations throughout this entire operation. Moving one elephant, let alone 500, is an astronomical feat. Each elephant is different and each capture is fraught with countless extenuating circumstances from how an animal reacts to the drugs to how and where they fall when they are darted. Challenging situations include when an elephant goes down on its chest which restricts breathing ability and needs to be rolled onto its side, or if it falls up against a tree or on top of its own trunk which could cut off its oxygen supply. Although this has happened on several occasions, the ground teams have always been able to successfully intervene. This is an operation based on decades of experience in elephant captures and translocations, behavior and anatomy, and in being able to make decisions in a split second to achieve a successful outcome, and we are very happy with the results achieved so far.

It is incredibly moving to see these elephants wake up after being anesthetised (from the time they are darted, they are asleep for an hour or so before given a reversal drug in order to wake up and move into the trucks which transport them to Nkhotakota). And it is nothing short of inspirational to see them released into the park. The family units regroup, and very quickly they move from the boma into the larger and wild confines of the park. The first few captures were just family units consisting of females and youngsters which help ‘anchor’ the bulls and prevent them from breaking through the perimeter fence. So far, all the elephants have settled well within the park without incident. Twenty of the 210 have been fitted with radio collars so we can track their movements and all are adjusting very well to their new surroundings, which have ample space and resources.

Along with 500 elephants, we’re also moving over a thousand individuals of game species to repopulate Nkhotakota and to date have successfully moved 404 waterbuck, 100 kudu, 200 sable, 122 impala, 199 warthog and 92 buffalo.

We’ve been thrilled to be able to share this historic translocation with some of our most valued supporters and stakeholders, from donors to government partners, as well as our own staff. As it was announced just on Tuesday by Kensington Palace, we are also delighted that Prince Harry is joining us to help with the translocation.

We’ve received a tremendous amount of national and global press in the past few weeks from the Associated Press, Washington Post, CNN, BBC, and popular digital outlets like Buzzfeed and Mashable. The news has been overwhelmingly positive, with of course the expected questions of why we’re lifting elephants upside down by a crane, to will they be safe in their new home.

The reason we are moving these elephants is to prevent further habitat degradation and mitigate conflict in Liwonde and Majete, as well as to restock Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. To do this, we have to be sure of their long-term security which is why we have already overhauled law enforcement and anti-poaching measures in their new home. To read more about the operation, how we move elephants, and to see recent media and photos, please do visit our newly launched microsite at www.500elephants.org which will be updated frequently until the end of next year.

As always, on behalf of African Parks, I extend my deep gratitude to our partners and to all of you who have helped make this historic move possible. These 500 elephants are a symbol of hope and possibility for conservation, their species, and for Africa.

Best wishes,
Edited by jeremie
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I just wonder what the translocated elephants will think of all this and whether they will attempt to find their way back to Liwonde and Majete.

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As it was announced just on Tuesday by Kensington Palace, we are also delighted that Prince Harry is also going to help us with the translocation

 

@@Paolo outed! You can drop the "I am an I-Italian. I like-a good coffee" act now.

 

Seriously,how was it? Anything personal to add to what African Parks are saying?

 

And thank you for the updates @jeremie Really interesting and your pasting of relevant content into the thread helps me keep up-to-date with minimal effort. I would have forgotten about this without you and that would eb a shame as these Africa Parks people seem a bit Superman-ish.

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Posted (edited)

 

 

As it was announced just on Tuesday by Kensington Palace, we are also delighted that Prince Harry is also going to help us with the translocation

 

@@Paolo outed! You can drop the "I am an I-Italian. I like-a good coffee" act now.

 

Seriously,how was it? Anything personal to add to what African Parks are saying?

 

And thank you for the updates @jeremie Really interesting and your pasting of relevant content into the thread helps me keep up-to-date with minimal effort. I would have forgotten about this without you and that would eb a shame as these Africa Parks people seem a bit Superman-ish.

 

 

@@pault

 

Prince Harry was indeed with us for a couple of captures, and unfortunately I have to confirm we are not lookalikes!

 

Seriously, it has been an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience - the crowning of a fantastic trip, and both @@Anita and I are still coming to terms with it, the unforgettable feelings, and all the information that (hopefully) we absorbed.

 

You are right of speaking of the AP Team as Superman-ish. Their professionalism and skills are beyond amazing. Just spending time with some of the key people and hearing about their experiences was a great privilege. Our helicopter pilot, Frank (a senior gentleman tough as nails) has been involved in wildlife work since the 1970s and has been on extensive duty in "hot" places like Chinko in CAR and Garamba in DRC. The vets, Andre (in charge of darting the elephants from the air) and Kester (taking the lead with the ground operations and the awakening of the tranquillized elephants) have done, amongst other things, most of the translocations restocking Tswalu as well as moving elephants and other species Gorongosa in Mozambique and Majete in Malawi. All nicest people to boot.

 

@@Geoff

 

Apparently the elephants moved to Nkhotakota are quite happy - lots of water and plenty of food up there; kind of being invited to a yummy banquet. They have showed no intention to move, and they could not anyway, being Liwonde and Majete separated by 350 km of human populated areas (and being fenced for the most part).

 

In any event, this is nothing new. Next year 200 elephants will be moved from Majete, and there were basically no elephants in Majete when African Parks took over in 2003- all the elephants were moved there, and now are thriving to the point they have become a source population for other parks. Ditto for elephants moved from Gonarezhou to Save Valley or out of Malilangwe in Zimbabwe.

 

Actually, the capture/translocation techniques have become so advanced and are constantly improving to the point that in the future there might be other elephant translocations on even larger scale, potentially of thousands of animals. In the course of the discussions with the team, the concept of "human assisted migrations" in certain areas was mentioned several times.

 

Once elephants were able to move long distances almost everywhere in Africa, giving respite to over-utilized land and finding new pastures. Now that is no longer possible in many places and, once again, it is a case of us humans trying to somehow partially fix what we have destroyed.

Edited by Paolo
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What a fantastic experience @@Paolo - all things being equal I'll be able to report back on lots of happy elephants and other game species next year.

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Goody goody, lots of happy elephants for our trip there next year!!

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Besides the elephants, 1,590 head of other species have been translocated to Nkhotakota as of now.

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Yes, they've also relocated sable, waterbuck, zebra, kudu & eland plus many more "smaller species"

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