Populations of African elephants are being depleted at concerning rates, with fewer than 450,000 remaining. Poaching and habitat loss have sent numbers into serious decline. Malawi's recent successes in anti-poaching and management of human- wildlife conflict have led to a population surplus in two of the country's 9 protected areas, Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve.
This huge relocation starts next week in Liwonde National Park, home to Malawi's largest population of 800 elephants. This delicate process involves the use of helicopters to dart elephants, which are then lifted by crane onto trucks to start their 300 km road journey to a newly created sanctuary.
The elephants are being moved to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, close to Lake Malawi, which for years had been depleted of wildlife. Once home to over 1500 elephants, now as little as 100 remain. A 16,000-hectare sanctuary has been built, creating a safe and secure habitat for these animals to thrive before being released, in time, into the wider Reserve. As well as the elephant, there are plans to relocate a further 1500 animals from a variety of species to the Reserve.
This is an extremely hopeful story for conservation, elephants and particularly for Malawi. Kelly White from Malawi Tourism told us “ We are delighted with African Parks' plans to relocate and reintroduce species into Malawi's parks. If Malawi had a perceived weakness in tourism terms, it was that some of its neighbours offered a 'better' safari experience. But, as well as helping to safeguard the future of these magnificent animals, these developments will result in a total transformation of Malawi's wildlife and safaris. Malawi will become one of the most complete destinations in Africa - Lake, Landscape, Culture and now Wildlife experiences of the very highest quality. Warm, welcoming and unspoilt, Malawi really is just waiting to be discovered”.
Since 2003 African Parks has, in partnership with the Malawi government, managed Majete Wildlife Reserve, a partnership that has seen the reserve restored and restocked with 2,500 animals including the Big Five. Majete has been a great success and is now one of Malawi's premier wildlife sanctuaries, conserving and protecting more than 8,800 animals. With the addition of Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in 2015, African Parks now manages 3 of Malawi's 9 protected areas and with goals to match all that has been achieved in Majete, African Parks are transforming the wildlife of the country.