Flashback: resolving human and animal conflict in Malawi – how are the elephants today?

In June of 2009, the International Fund for Animal Welfare embarked on a massive project to relocate 83 elephants from the communal lands of Mangochi on the shores of Lake Malawi to Majete Game Reserve.

The human-elephant conflict originated when a drought in the early 2000’s forced the elephants out the forest reserves of Phirilongwe down to agricultural land bordering Lake Malawi’s western shores.

This migration of elephants in search of water was to prove disastrous as they ran into conflict with the local subsistence farmers. Protecting the valuable crops of maize in the densely populated area of between the towns of Mangochi in the south and Mbalamanja in the north became a matter of life and death.

After requests from the chiefs in the area to intervene, the government approached IFAW to assist in the mitigation of this conflict situation and with the help of Conservation Solutions successfully relocate 83 elephants to Majete Game Reserve in the low lands of south Malawi, a distance of around 300km away.

Free roaming elephants at Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi. © IFAWFour years on from the elephant move and the 83 elephants have made their home in lush green tranquillity of Majete Game Reserve. Having been one of the team fortunate to be involved on the ground in Malawi during the relocation it is hard now to determine which of the thriving elephants are originally from Phirilongwe.

The once aggressive elephants who spent much of their time hiding in the foot hills during the day and only moving at night to try avoid contact with humans have completely integrated into the resident population; barely phased by the presence of humans.

Amongst the breeding herds with young at foot we find the progeny of the Phirilongwe elephants. The new generation is graciously unaware of the human elephant conflict that plagued the previous generation. They are at last free to be elephants.


National Geographic produced a series called Animal Mega Moves, and featured IFAW's efforts in Malawi. You can watch the trailer here.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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