The relocated animals, which had been living outside the boundaries of the Maputo Special Reserve, in the southernmost district of Matutuine, were transported in three separate phases. They are now reunited in Zinave National Park, where the size of elephant population has risen to over 200.
The new inhabitants will prowl the vast green swathes of Zinave as they search for pastures to feed on and drink at leisure in the wetland inside the conservation area.
The completion of the move of the elephants to their new home brings to an end the suffering of the residents of Massale, a remote community in Matutuine who found that the elephants were regularly devastating their crops.
In Zinave, the elephants will roam through an enclosed and electrically fenced sanctuary of about 18,000 hectares. There are plans to expand this to 28,000 hectares, as the elephant population grows over the years. The conservation area covers a total area of 40,000 hectares.
The Administrator of Zinave National Park, Antonio Abacar, said the restocking process is an added value for the conservation area, which is now recording an encouraging growth of prestigious wild life species.
The translocation campaign, Abacar said, was first conducted in 2011 in partnership with the South African conservation authorities and brought to the national park species such as giraffes, zebras and wildebeest. But the move was preceded by the creation of necessary conditions of safety for the wild life sanctuary.
“Since the start of the drive, especially from 2016 onwards, there has never been any sort of lethal incident and over the last four years more than 200 homemade rifles have been seized, but among them there were no automatic rifles nor weapons of higher calibre that could bring down an elephant,” he said.
Under the translocation drive, over 400 antelopes have been relocated from Gorongosa National Park, and 250 buffalos from Marromeu National Reserve, both in the central province of Sofala, as well as other species such as zebras and wildebeest. Zinave National Park has now over 2,000 large mammals.
The administrator said, on the other hand, that the translocation campaign which initially only targeted herbivores has, since 2020, included carnivores and the first predators to be moved to Zinave were five hyenas relocated from the Caringane reserve, in the south of the Limpopo National Park (PNL) in Gaza province.
After the success achieved with elephants, the Zinave National Park authorities plan to restock the conservation area with leopards which will also be translocated from Caringane. In 2022, lions will follow and soon the park will boast the existence of four of the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant), lacking only the rhinoceros.
But to bring in rhinos, he said, the Zinave Park wants first to ensure full security in order to avoid bitter experiences with poaching such as those recorded in Kruger National Park in South Africa and the PNL. The park has been making efforts to increase the number of active rangers, whose age should range between 18 and 35 years, who will be equipped with the appropriate material resources to fulfill their duties.
“The full restocking of the big-five over the next five years, as we would like, will depend mainly on the success of the preparatory measures we are fighting tirelessly to put in place,” he declared.