Wildlife experts in Malawi will next month begin the relocation of up to 500 elephants from natural reserves where the species have been heavily poached to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.
Conservationists feel that moving the elephants from Majete and Liwonde wildlife parks to Nkhotakota will help restore elephant populations in Malawi and Africa.
The relocation will be done by African Parks, a non-profit group based in Johannesburg which manages all three wildlife reserves.
The plan comes amid continued decline of elephants in Africa due to massive poaching which has happened in order to meet growing demand for ivory, mostly in parts of Asia.
“There’s a paradox in Africa where elephants are in steep decline in certain places but require population management in better-protected areas where their numbers are growing,” said Andrew Parker, operations director at African Parks.
The massive relocation, slated for completion next year, will involve darting the elephants from a helicopter, hoisting the slumbering animals by crane and loading them in crates onto trucks for a ride of about 300 kilometres.
According to Parker, the elephants at Majete and Liwonde strip large tracts of vegetation and come into conflict with communities but will find a home at Nkhotakota, a park of 1,800 square kilometres with more space and security.
Nkhotakota currently has fewer than 100 elephants; Malawi has up to 1,500 elephants in total.
Africa has about 470,000 elephants, down from as many as 3 million to 5 million in the early 20th century, according to the WWF conservation group.
The elephants in Malawi will be moved in small groups in a first phase in July and August, and again in a similar period next year. The Dutch PostCode Lottery, which supports charity, is a key funder of the $1.6 million relocation.