Jumbo elephant move in Malawi

The southern African nation of Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. In addition to struggling with famine, disease and poverty, deadly human-elephant conflicts made life even harder for people in the Phirilongwe area.

There had been fierce competition between communities and local elephants for limited resources. More than ten people had been killed by elephants and the villagers had resorted to using arrows, snares, poisons, guns and nail-embedded planks to drive the elephants away.  In 2009, as a last resort, the government was considering killing the elephants to end the conflicts.

With the lives of humans and elephants hanging in the balance, IFAW took action to find a lasting solution that would address the security of both.

IFAW goes into action to protect elephants

Working with the government of Malawi, we planned and operated a mammoth evacuation of elephants.

In July 2009, we moved 83 elephants 250 kilometers from Phirilongwe to the protected Majete Wildlife Reserve, ensuring the elephants a secure, long-term home.

Preparations for the relocation began three weeks earlier. An advance party explained the move to village leaders and access routes were prepared for recovery vehicles.

Using helicopters and people on foot, the elephants were tranquillized with darts, then transported on modified game trucks to the Majete Wildlife Reserve.

On arrival they were kept in special enclosures for monitoring before each elephant family group was allowed to move freely into the protected area.

The 14 groups of elephants – 83 individuals in all – are reportedly living safely deep in the bush of the Majete Wildlife Reserve.

The relocation of these elephants demonstrates that it’s not necessary to solve issues of human-wildlife conflict with guns, bullets and violence.

The Malawi government has set a positive example by taking an ethical approach to elephant management practices - one that all governments facing challenges of human-wildlife conflict should consider.

Map Showing Area of Translocation

The map below shows the Malawi elephant translocation between the Phirilongwe region of Malawi, where the elephants once lived, and the Majete Wildlife Reserve, where the elephants were relocated to. The total distance between the two points is 250 km.
To start, click on the two pins to get more information about the move.  Once you have learned more you can mouse over and click and drag your mouse to view any other areas on the map.  

View Malawi Elephant Move in a larger map