Mbombela - Wildlife vets have darted and collared 20 elephants in the Niassa National Reserve in Mozambique, the most important protected area in the country.During a five-day expedition, Dr Carlos Lopes Pereira and Dr Mike Kock - along with a team of conservationists from Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) - worked in partnership with the reserve’s tourist operators and communities to collar the elephants.The team collared 17 females and three males with GPS transmitters fitted into the collars. The aim is for conservationists to track the movements of family groups in an effort to protect wildlife from poaching and to determine how the animals use the landscape."We are very happy that we managed to perform such an enormous task in Mozambique," said Kock during a telephonic interview.Niassa National Reserve is home to Mozambique’s biggest elephant population. It represents 43% of the total national population.ANAC representative Dr Bartolomeu Soto said that the collaring operation was a critical part of their protection strategy to address poaching in Niassa Reserve."ANAC and the Government of Mozambique are committed to this battle and we will work with WCS and all other partners to secure our wildlife," said Soto.In the past three years, an estimated 63% of Niassa’s elephants have been killed. During the collaring operation, 15 elephant carcasses from two family groups were found. They had recently been killed for their ivory.According to Alastair Nelson, WCS Country Director in Mozambique, this further stressed the need for the collaring in order provide real-time information on elephant groups so that authorities could respond quickly and stop the killings from happening."We have to focus our efforts if we are to address elephant poaching, artisanal mining and logging that are threatening this pristine wilderness. Collaring these elephants provides one focus for our protection efforts; aerial surveillance supports this and also helps us address illegal mining and logging," said Nelson.