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

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

Post by Lisbeth » Tue Jul 10, 2018 12:03 pm

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.

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.

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.”

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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.

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

Post by Lisbeth » Tue Jul 10, 2018 12:19 pm

The elephants are then loaded into crates in the company of their family which helps to calm them down.
How is this possible :-? There cannot be room for more than one crate on each truck -O-
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Re: Mammoth of a task: How 30 elephants were moved from SA to Mozambique

Post by Lisbeth » Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:55 pm

Elephants with a purpose

Posted on 6 July, 2018 by News Desk in Conservation, News, Wildlife and the News Desk post series

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Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife staff member safeguards a darted elephant ready for transportation © Peace Parks Foundation

Media release from Peace Parks Foundation

In the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, part of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area, elephants are flourishing. Following the reintroduction of the species into the game reserve during the 1990s, the numbers rapidly grew to a healthy 139 strong elephant population today. In a world where more than 30,000 elephants are lost to poaching each year, this is a true management success story for conservation partner Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, but one that, unfortunately, now has also started to present its own challenges. This is because uMkhuze, one of South Africa’s oldest game parks (est. 1912), only offers a range of 43,000 ha with a finite carrying capacity for these gentle giants.

Only 150 kilometres to the west of uMkhuze, Ezemvelo’s Ithala Game Reserve struggles with the same challenge of effectively maintaining their blossoming elephant population within the reserve’s approximately 30,000 ha protected area.

“There are various ways in which an overpopulation of elephants can be managed. This includes culling, contraceptives, as well as translocations. In both uMkhuze and Ithala, contraceptive plans have already been put into action. This will, however, take time to significantly contain numbers – time that the reserve does not have as the tightly contained herds of elephants start to disrupt ecosystems and diminish resources,” explained Dave Cooper, Wildlife Veterinarian for Ezemvelo.

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It really ‘takes a village’ to safely and respectfully capture and transport these gentle giants. Team members are assigned to make sure the elephants trunks remain unobstructed, that their eyes are covered, and that their overall health seems uncompromised whilst under sedation © Peace Parks Foundation

Accordingly, last week, expert teams from Elephants, Rhinos & People, Conservation Solutions, and Ezemvelo, supported by the Department of Environmental Affairs, came together to capture 29 of the uMkhuze and 24 of the Ithala elephants and transport them safely through a 1,250 km journey with greater purpose. By removing a significant percentage of the elephant population from the reserves, it potentially negates any need for further extreme elephant management interventions for at least the next 10 to 15 years.

The elephants crossed two borders and traversed three countries (South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique). Less than two days later, they were released into the care of Peace Parks Foundation and Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas who co-manage the elephant’s new home – Zinave National Park.

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The elephants travelled more than 1,250 km, crossing two borders and traversing three countries © Peace Parks Foundation

iSimangaliso’s Park Operations Director Sizo Sibiya – who in 1994 was a section ranger at uMkhuze when the elephants first arrived – commented: “We must remember that protected areas are managed not only for the benefit of specific species, but rather holistically for all biodiversity. In the case of the flourishing uMkhuze elephant population, their numbers are reaching a point where a noticeable impact can be seen on the trees. This proposal to donate some of them to Zinave was a win-win solution for all of us.”

ERP, supported by groupelephant.com, funded and coordinated the translocation operation as part of their drive to translocate large elephant numbers outside of South African borders, to alleviate the country’s increasing elephant population pressures. Helicopter time and fuel was sponsored by Wild Tomorrow Fund.

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With their legs bound by strong, soft tethers, the elephants are very carefully and gently lifted by sturdy crane into the transport containers. Extensive physiological monitoring has shown that elephants are not at all compromised by being upside down for a few minutes © Peace Parks Foundation

Lise-Marie Greeff-Villet, Communications Coordinator for Peace Parks Foundation, shared: “Observing the elephant capture operations was like watching a well-choreographed dance. It was breathtaking to see the skill with which game capture teams, veterinarians, rangers, pilots, and drivers coordinated their responsibilities; and even more beautiful the passion and care that accompanied every interaction with, and touch of, an elephant.”

Zinave, situated within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, offers a protected space of 408,000 ha with prime elephant habitat, more than sufficient water resources, and only a handful of local elephants – positioning the uMkhuze and Ithala elephants to proliferate as the progenitors of a thriving new elephant population. The new elephants will bring the total elephant population in the Park to about 67, a number that is expected to double over the next 10 years.

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The beautiful Zinave Pan is within the sanctuary that the elephants will now call home © Peace Parks Foundation

The elephants will initially be released into an electrically-fenced 18,600 ha 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. Safeguarding the wildlife within Zinave is of course paramount to Park management. Through significant funding from Peace Parks Foundation, the Park’s protection capabilities were recently reinforced with 26 newly trained and appointed rangers, ranger base camps, patrol equipment and digital communication systems – all as part of advanced and integrated anti-poaching strategies.

The ‘destructive’ behaviour that resulted in the elephants’ move from uMkhuze and Ithala, is exactly what will now benefit the ecosystem balance in Zinave. With almost no wildlife present in the Park for decades, the vegetation has become extremely overgrown and dense. Peace Parks Foundation has been rewilding the conservation area for the past few years and the close to 1,250 animals, mostly grazers, brought in have already started to change the flora landscape for the better. However, the elephants will now take this to a whole new level.

As Bernard van Lente, Peace Parks Foundation’s Project Manager in Zinave, notes: “The elephants will stimulate biodiversity by trampling and, thereby, opening up space in overgrown areas, allowing for other species of grasses and smaller saplings to gain access to sunlight, currently blocked out by dominant, larger tree species. The spaces opened up by elephants will also create pathways for other species and expose grasses and flora for these grazers to eat, food that would otherwise have been inaccessible. In addition, the proliferation of other insects attracted to elephant dung also provides food for birds and bats, which in turn helps spark the increase in other species, known as ‘succession’.”

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The elephants arrived safely in Zinave National Park © Peace Parks Foundation

‘’We are very excited about the positive impact these cross-border elephant translocations will have on reducing elephant population pressures in South Africa, whilst establishing new populations in areas such as Zinave National Park. This is also the first of what will hopefully be many more meaningful projects conducted by ERP in Mozambique in collaboration with Peace Parks Foundation‘’, said Dereck Milburn, Director Operations for ERP.

Rewilding Mozambique’s protected areas is a primary focus in Peace Parks Foundation’s strategy for the development of transfrontier conservation areas in the region, with repopulated parks hopefully leading the way in revitalising the country’s eco-tourism economies.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela
The desire for equality must never exceed the demands of knowledge

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

Post by Peter Betts » Sat Jul 14, 2018 8:39 pm

Well done Zinave is a BEAUTIFUL area

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