African Parks, IFAW, Tracy and Du Plessis, Heligistix,
Dr. Dave Cooper, Dr. Joel Alves, Dr. Ben Muller
During the month of July 2022, we had the privilege of performing another phenomenal project on behalf of African Parks and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). This translocation entailed relocating 263 elephants from Liwonde National Park to Kasungu National Park in Malawi, in an attempt to maintain healthy habitats in both national parks, establish viable human elephant populations and ensure the prosperity of local communities surrounding the parks. It was an honour to be involved in an operation at such scale and play our role in this national conservation initiative.
As Africa’s human population surges, increasingly encroaching into remaining elephant rangelands, the battle for space is fast becoming one of the biggest challenges for both elephants and people. To safeguard elephant populations, prevent loss of biodiversity and protect the needs of communities, elephant translocations are becoming one of the most effective solutions.
Elephants are a keystone species, which means they play a pivotal role in engineering the structure of plant and animal communities within their habitats. Ideally this is beneficial to the environment, but when populations are too dense and migration is restricted, habitat degradation takes place. As Malawi is a densely-populated agro-based country, lacking the necessary ecological corridors that allow for natural migration, elephant populations within protected areas need to be carefully managed to mitigate adverse effects on both the habitat and the surrounding local communities.
Liwonde’s elephant numbers had swelled to almost 600 elephants, impacting on the park’s biodiversity and increasing the risk of human-elephant conflict situations in surrounding villages. This move aimed to alleviate elephant pressure in and around the park while creating a viable population in Kasungu where, until now, only 120 elephants existed. At 2,100km2, Kasungu is the second largest national park in Malawi and is four times the size of Liwonde, providing the perfect habitat for Liwonde’s surplus elephant.
This massive undertaking contributed to overall elephant conservation in Malawi, helped restore habitats and alleviate human wildlife conflict, while augmenting Kasungu’s elephant population to ensure its long-term viability. Due to poaching, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict, elephants are being decimated across Africa, but #ElephantsontheMove is a different story – one of hope and restoration, and of securing the future for Malawi’s elephants.
Over and above the elephant, we were also responsible for translocating over 1500 plains-game species between a number of Malawian reserves and National Parks. This included the capture and relocation of hippo, buffalo, sable, eland, waterbuck, warthog, zebra, impala, hartebeest and kudu.