IFAW on the ground in Malawi ahead of the elephant move
IFAW’s Neil Greenwood reports from the Mangochi area in Southern Malawi - for more information on this translocation, please visit http://www.ifaw.org/helpelephants
After our arrival into Blantyre, we traveled by road in a Northeast direction towards Lake Malawi and the Phirilongwe area, home to approximately 60 of the last remaining free-ranging African elephants in Malawi. But tragically, this home is no longer able to support the elephants.
One of the first signs of trouble is the expanse of human settlement, most of which are subsistence farmers who drive their sole income from farming and charcoal collection. The mountains surrounding us as we drove in where the last visible areas of natural vegetation but even in these isolated pockets, human activity could be seen by the plumes of smoke rising from the charcoal production.
After meeting with the government officials, the capture team did an aerial survey aboard the Hughes 500 helicopter used for this mission. The survey was useful to determine access routes into the capture area and to spot any elephants moving through Phirilongwe. After the survey, 2 routes were identified which we examined by ground this morning. Some of these routes were virtually impassible with 4x4 vehicles and yet among the path we found several villages that provided an opportunity to talk to locals and get a sense of the recent elephant activity as well as informing them of the imminent capture operation.
In talking to locals, one realized the extent of this conflict when one of the community members confided that 3 of his neighbors had fatal encounters with the elephants.
Tomorrow, the real work begins as we push access roads with the use of bulldozers. We are expecting to initiate the elephant capture as soon as Sunday. Please stay tuned for more on this epic and unique elephant rescue.