Largest relocation of elephants in the world

2013-08-13 00:00

ONE of the largest relocations of elephants yet started last Friday when the owner of a private game reserve in Namibia moved the first of 200 elephants almost 1 000 km.

Gert Joubert, owner of the Erindi game ­reserve in Namibia, said the Namibian government had granted the permit for the move about six weeks ago, after a bureaucratic battle of eight years.

Last Wednesday, a phalanx of vehicles, ranging from large trucks to helicopters, departed from Erindi, some 176 km from Windhoek, to the Khaudum National Park in the Kalahari desert in the north-east of Namibia to fetch the elephants.

Joubert explained that he has one of the largest private game farms with 70 000 hectares of savannah, bush, mountains, and springs.

“My reserve is one-and-a-half times bigger than the Pilanesberg reserve and Khaudum has too many elephants.”

The elephants will be a drawcard for ecotourists and will help Joubert to control tree and bush growth naturally.

He said it was the largest relocation of elephants in the world since Hannibal took his war-elephants over the Alps in 218 BC.

Well-known game veterinarian Douw Grobler heads the relocation.

“He is the best guy to move elephants,” Joubert said.

The first part of the relocation started last Friday with identificationof family groups.

The first family group has nine mature elephants.

“We only relocate complete family groups. A group gets bunched together with a helicopter and then sedated.

“The elephants are then loaded into specific trucks for a journey that will last 14 hours,” Grobler explained.

After arriving at Erindi, the elephants are kept for 24 to 36 hours in a boma to get used to the area and fencing before they are let lose to explore the reserve on their own.

“We will catch and deliver a [family] group every second day. The whole process should take four to six weeks,” Grobler said.

Joubert said they would initially only relocate 100 elephants and, when this first group had settled at Erindi, they will bring the next 100 in 2014.

“The whole thing costs big money. Just to catch and transport the first 100 elephants costs R3 million.”

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