Conservationists in Malawi will next month attempt the largest-ever relocation of elephants in Africa.
They will move 500 elephants from two overcrowded wildlife reserves in the country’s south to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, a distance of more than 300km.
The relocation of the herd by African Parks, a non-profit conservation organisation, is an effort to halt a steep decline in elephant numbers, the result of ivory poaching and loss of habitat.
Over the past 20 years, Malawi’s elephant population has been halved – from 4,000 to 2,000 amid a continent-wide decline.
“Most of the news we hear about elephants out of Africa is about the poaching crisis, and their steep declines,” Andrea Heydlauff, the organisation’s director of strategic communications, told Al Jazeera.
“This is a story about restoration and providing a future for Malawi’s elephants,” she said.
The $1.6m relocation operation, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, will require small groups of elephants to be sedated, using darts shot from a helicopter.
The first herd will then be transported by trucks from Liwonde National Park to the Nkhotakota wildlife reserve, where a 16,000-hectare elephant sanctuary has been fenced off.