263 elephants relocated after being fenced in by human sprawl

Over 260 elephants were relocated to a new home after increased human development fenced them inside a national park, causing over-population.

Inside Malawi’s Liwonde National Park, habitat was being destroyed and conflicts between humans and wildlife were escalating.

Yahoo News Australia spoke with International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) Patricio Ndadzela about the animals’ “assisted migration” hundreds of kilometers north to Kasungu National Park.

An elephant being craned upside down into a truck.
263 elephants were translocated across Malawi. Source: Jonas Strahberger

“There used to be a wide space where the animals move freely,” he said.

“But the human population has created an island-like structure for protected areas in Malawi. The park is a protected area surrounded by a sea of human beings that the animals can’t move out of.

“These protected areas are fully fenced. So there are physical barriers, preventing their free movements.”

How 263 elephants were translocated across Malawi

Beginning in July, the project took 30 days to complete. Mr Ndadzela explained the drive between the two habitats took around 12 hours each way.

Left - Vets attending to a tranquillised elephant. Right - Elephants being set free from a truck
The elephants were tranquillised at Liwonde National Park and then transported to Kasungu National Park. Source: Jonas Strahberger / IFAW

While the thought of translocating five-tonne elephants would sound daunting for many, the process was actually “very mechanical” and “highly technical”.

A veterinarian would fly across the park searching for animals, and once located the entire family would be shot with a tranquillizer dart.

“If there are 15, they take all the 15. Once they're down, they’re actually lifted off the ground onto a crate (on a truck),” Mr Ndadzela said.

“Then they are actually given an antidote which wakes them up and they are transported.”

Left - Elephants being released. Right - Patricio Ndadzela.
Patricio Ndadzela (right) said as human population grows space must be set aside for wildlife. Source: IFAW / supplied

Once at the park, the elephants are placed inside an electrified enclosure so they can adjust to their new surroundings.

Mr Ndadzela said IFAW is now undertaking a project in Africa called Room to Roam, which is creating corridors for animals to move freely.

“As the human population increases, we need to create space for animals as well,” he said.

“The only way is to have green corridors created, maintained and conserved.”

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