Durban - For iSimangaliso’s operations director Sizo Sibiya it was an emotional moment - the relocation operation of 30 of its uMkhuze elephants to Zinave National Park in the Mozambique.
“In 1994 when elephants were first introduced back into uMkhuze, I was working here as a young section ranger,” he says. “Today is a great indication of the excellent job that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has been doing in protecting these animals over the past 23 years to the point where we are able to donate to other parks,” he said.
The donation of the uMkhuze elephants to Zinave National Park, a component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, will assist the fledgling park in rewilding its pristine 408 000ha protected area.
The mammoth operation – the largest single translocation of its kind in the park to date – was conducted over two days in June by specialists in capture and relocation of elephants across the continent. The project was primarily co-ordinated and funded by Elephants, Rhinos & People. Another NGO, the Wild Tomorrow Fund covered the costs of helicopter time and fuel. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Game Capture Unit and conservation staff completed the multi-party team responsible for the translocation.
Zinave is a pristine area near Vilankulos in Mozambique that until recently had been left largely devoid of grazers, following the country’s civil war. Now safely under protection once again, and with more than 1 200 animals reintroduced into the park over the past two years, the region is rich with promise for a new era of conservation.
According to Bernard van Lente, Project Manager in Zinave, “The park offers prime elephant habitat, more than sufficient water resources, and only a handful of local elephants – positioning the uMkhuze elephants, along with 24 donated by the Ithala Game Reserve, to proliferate as the progenitors of a thriving new elephant population.