IFAW team arrives in Malawi for epic elephant translocation

E1479 Thanks to a partnership between the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the government of Malawi, more than 60 endangered elephants under threat of certain death will be evacuated to safety in a major rescue effort that begins in the southern African country of early next week . The two entities have teamed together with a South African capture team to rescue animals and people from fierce human-elephant conflict in the Phirilongwe area of Malawi, just south of Lake Malawi.

“Some elephants have had their trunks amputated by snares set by local villagers, while others are suffering from wounds caused by bullets, arrows and nail-embedded planks as well as poisoning,” said Jason Bell-Leask, IFAW Director Southern Africa.

At least 10 people and a number of elephants have been killed as increasing human populations have destroyed habitat for the endangered animals and forced them to eat crops or damage the granaries of the local, mostly subsistence farmers. Neil Greenwood, IFAW spokesperson on the ground in Malawi, noted that upon discussion with local villagers about the elephant move, "they had grins from ear to ear, saying that they will be able to lead normal lives once the elephants are gone.”

IFAW team members met with the capture team and others from the Malawi government's Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DPNW) in Mangochi, Malawi this morning. At the meeting it was agreed that the first capture and translocation of the Phirilongwe elephants will take place on Sunday, the 7th or Monday, the 8th, at the latest.

“In order to save these elephants, we must act now – otherwise they will be killed as “problem animals”,” said Bell-Leask. “The translocation of these 60+ elephants solves a major conservation problem and ultimately ensures the safety of both animals and people.

“It sets an example for taking an ethical approach to elephant management practices.”

The full capture and translocation will run throughout the course of the month. Initially, family groups will be darted and tranquilised from helicopter or on foot. They will then be loaded into transport vehicles for the six hour journey to Majete Wildlife Reserve.

For more information on the translocation and on making a donation to support the move, please visit www.ifaw.org. Also, please check back to the blog for frequent updates.

This post was filed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare's program communications officer Colleen Cullen.

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