Malawi Hails Historic Relocation of 520 Elephants

Malawi Hails Historic Relocation of 520 Elephants


Malawi has successfully concluded a two-year project to move 520 sedated elephants to a reserve where the animals had been nearly wiped out by poaching.

In one of the biggest-ever wildlife translocations, in August 2017 the elephants were transported 350 kilometers by truck from two southern parks to the Nkhotakota reserve in the center of the country.

“We have taken extraordinary measures to secure a future for Malawi’s elephants and at the same time are helping people who live around these critically important wild areas,” said Brighton Kumchedwa of the National Parks Department.

The elephant population in Nkhotakota fell from 1,500 to just 100 in 2015. Since then security work and community relations programs have made the reserve safe for wildlife.

Africa Parks, a conservation organization that led the effort, described it as historic, adding that 261 elephants were moved in 2016 and the remainder in 2017.

The elephants were shot with a tranquilizer dart from a helicopter before being winched by their legs into crates on the back of 30-ton trucks.

They were driven overnight from the two parks, which had an elephant overpopulation, to their new home in Nkhotakota, which is surrounded by an electric fence and also has buffalo, antelope, warthog and zebra.

“This successful translocation is a pivotal moment for Malawi,” said Peter Fearnhead, head of African Parks. “Rehoming more than 500 elephants, and knowing they will thrive in Nkhotakota, is a story of hope and survival, and a real example of what is possible with good collaboration.”

Project organizers said there were more than 10 million African elephants 100 years ago, but only an estimated 450,000 remain today. About 40,000 are poached every year to feed the insatiable demand for ivory.