Mission accomplished - 83 elephants safely rescued

Monday, July 6, 2009
Cape Town, South Africa
A mammoth evacuation of 83 elephants was successfully concluded in Malawi this weekend.

The elephants were moved by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) to save them from persecution by local villagers trying to protect their crops and livelihoods from the animals.

"This is a victory for both elephants and people - they have been engaged in a battle that has seen elephants cruelly wounded and killed, and many local people killed as well," said Jason Bell-Leask, Director Southern Africa for IFAW.

"Moving the elephants was, without argument, the only solution to a terrible situation for both the elephants and the community."
The translocation of the free roaming herd of elephants from Mangochi District, just south of Lake Malawi to Majete Wildlife Reserve - both in Malawi - began on June 8 and concluded on July 4. A total of 83 elephants were moved.

Bell-Leask said that, of the 14 groups of elephants captured and relocated 12 of the groups included individuals that had suffered injuries caused by human intervention - seven of the elephants had trunk amputations caused by snares, one had a deformed foot from a gin trap injury, actual snares had to be removed from three of the elephants, one elephant was blind in one eye from a gun shot wound, and a number of others bore scars from bullet wounds and snares.

All the elephants were moved safely and without incident, and released into Majete Wildlife Reserve, which is formally protected and offers the elephants a safe, secure home for the long-term.

"The relocation of these elephants is a real victory for animal welfare, and proof that it’s not necessary to solve issues of human-wildlife conflict down the barrel of a gun," said Bell-Leask.

"IFAW partnered with the government of Malawi on this epic project to move the elephants from otherwise certain death. We believe the Malawi government has set an example for taking an ethical approach to elephant management practices - one that all governments facing challenges of human-wildlife conflict should consider."

The relocation of the elephants was suspended for a short period when a Malawi businessman brought an interim injunction to prevent the elephants from being moved. The High Court of Malawi rejected the challenge and the translocation of the elephants continued.

IFAW remains dedicated to focusing on regional conservation efforts such as trans-boundary wildlife linkages to preempt human-wildlife conflict situations similar to that which has existed in Phirilongwe.

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