Mission accomplished – 83 elephants safely relocated

Monday, 6 July, 2009
(Cape Town, South Africa – July 6, 2009) - A mammoth evacuation of more than 80 elephants was successfully concluded in Malawi at the weekend.

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

Jason Bell-Leask, Southern Africa Director at IFAW, said: “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.

“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 – took around four weeks to complete with a total of 83 elephants moved.

Bell-Leask said that, of the 14 groups of elephants captured and relocated, 12 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 gunshot wound and a number of others bore scars from bullet wounds and snares

The effort to translocate the elephants began on June 8, 2009, with the last elephants caught on Saturday July 4. 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 pre-empt human-wildlife conflict situations similar to that which has existed in Phirilongwe.

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