Recently, one of the world’s largest and most significant elephant translocations happened in Malawi in what has been called the 500 Elephants initiative.
Since then, 150 elephants have made the 350km journey to their new home in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. In total, up to 500 elephants are being translocated from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve in southern Malawi to their new home not far from the famous lake in central Malawi.
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 neglect and poaching. With anti-poaching measures, fencing and local conservation education as integral parts of African Parks’ rehabilitation of Nkhotakota, the newly arrived animals will have a much safer and more secure new home.
The first elephants to enter the reserve were a family of nine individuals, but families of up to 20 to 25 can be moved at a time. So far all the elephants are doing well and staying within the perimeter fencing. African Parks, who are leading the translocation, plan to collar a total of 35 of these first 250 elephants in order to monitor them in their vast new home. Collars will be attached to 10 bulls and the rest to matriarchs.
The operation has two objectives: to relieve pressure from the elephant surplus in Liwonde and Majete, and to repopulate 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.
Compiled by: Melissa Jane Cook. Source: Malawi Tourism.