Malawi on Thursday celebrated the successful conclusion of a two-year
project moving 520 sedated elephants by truck to a reserve where the
animals had been nearly wiped out by poaching.
Described as one of the biggest-ever wildlife translocations, the elephants
were transported 350 kilometres (220 miles) from two southern parks to the
Nkhotakota reserve in the centre of the country.
"We have taken extraordinary measures to secure a future for Malawi's
elephants, and at the same time are helping people who live around these
critically important wild areas," said Brighton Kumchedwa of the national
The elephant population in Nkhotakota fell from 1,500 to just 100 in 2015.
Since then security work and community relation programmes have made the
reserve safe for wildlife.
Africa Parks, a conservation organisation that led the translocation,
described it as "historic", adding that 261 elephants were moved last year
and the remainer this year.
Only two elephants died in the process, which was completed on August 2.
The elephants were selected family by family and darted from a helicopter,
before being winched by their legs into crates on the back of 30-tonne
They were driven overnight from the two parks, which had a overpopulation
of elephants, to their new home in Nkhotakota.
Their new home is now surrounded by a high electric fence and has also
re-filled with buffalo, antelope, warthog and zebra.
"This successful translocation is a pivotal moment for Malawi," said Peter
Fearnhead, head of African Parks.
"Rehoming more than 500 elephants, and knowing they will thrive in
Nkhotakota, is a story of hope and survival, and a real example of what is
possible with good collaboration."
Britain's Prince Harry assisted in the first stage of the relocation.
Project organisers said there were more than 10 million African elephants
100 years ago, but only an estimated 450,000 remain today.
About 40,000 are poached every year to feed the insatiable demand for ivory.