MAPUTO – MATUTUINE (MOZAMBIQUE): Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), in partnership with the South Africa-based Peace Parks Foundation conducted on Friday the first phase of a translocation drive of 42 elephants that had been living outside the boundaries of the Special Maputo Reserve, in the southern most district of Matutuine.
In the first phase, 20 elephants were translocated to Zinave National Park, in the southern province of Inhambane, where they arrived on Saturday. Next week the other 22 elephants will be ferried to Zinave, as part of a restocking programme under way for the conservation areas across the country.
In Zinave National Park, the elephants will not only find safe haven but also a great deal of space for them to roam about. They will be enclosed in an electrically fenced sanctuary which currently covers 18,000 hectares and there are plans to expand it to 28,000 hectares. 108 elephants have been moved to the park over the last four years.
The translocation of the 42 elephants, budgeted at about 100,000 US dollars, will minimise the potential for conflicts between people and wild life. The 42 elephants had been competing for space and resources with the residents of Massale, a remote community in the buffer zone of the Maputo Special Reserve.
ANAC general director, Mateus Mutemba, said the translocation will be carried out in two phases, the first of which has Zinave National Park as a destination. Then, in 2022, the elephants will be ferried to the Gile National Park, in the central province of Zambezia, as part of the restocking drive.
“The operation is extremely useful, because it will ease the pressure, after the recent surge of the elephant population in the Maputo Special Reserve of Maputo”, said Mutemba. The current estimate is that there are over 500 elephants in the reserve.
ANAC and its partners, he said, have taken what he regarded as the “ideal move” which consists of moving wild life species from areas where they are reaching a great density. Moving them reduces the likelihood of conflicts with the human population. The animals are then taken to other sites with space to boost tourism potential.
The Maputo Special Reserve has recorded over the last decade a growth in its population, not only of elephants, but of zebras, giraffe, wildebeest, impala and other species of antelopes.
Mutemba claimed that government investment with cooperation partners over the last 15 years has been paying off, as there has been a sound and sizeable growth of species. Nationally, the elephant population, for instance, is growing at six per cent a year, and it is forecast that Mozambique’s elephant herds will double in size over the next 12 years.
Antony Alexander, Senior Project Manager at the Peace Parks Foundation, was pleased that there have been no incidents of poaching, since the start of the ongoing restocking drive. He was confident that the elephants will have a secure environment.
Peace Parks, he added, has also made significant investments in anti-poaching programmes which have turned Zinave into a very safe place for wildlife species.
Marta Manzine, a resident of Massale, thanked the Reserve management for getting rid of the elephants, saying that the last few years have been a nightmare for the households that chose to stay rather relocating to safe areas.
“The elephants could invade our fields and decimate whatever crop we planted,” Manzine declared, pointing out that the relocation definitely marks a new dawn and a return of peace among the residents.