How do you relocate 100 elephants?
From August to September 2018, 100 wild elephants will be donated and relocated from the Sango Wildlife Conservancy to the Rifa Safari Area, more than 700 kilometers away within Zimbabwe.
It takes us about a day to get the crane and recovery box to Sango. The relocation is done with a helicopter to sight and dart, a crane to lift the animals, numerous trucks for transport, a recovery box where the elephants wake up and heavy rubber mats. We will probably work with two cranes - a smaller and a larger one. The recovery box, a large enclosure built for a herd of 10 to 16 elephants, is very large and will be built on site.
SPOT & DART
One Pilot will fly the helicopter and track down the elephants, then two local vets to take care of the darting and anesthetics. We fly by helicopter over the Sango Wildlife Conservancy and look for the elephants. They are easy to find as they simply have too many! This shouldn't take long, as there are a lot of elephants in Sango. When we have found them, we order the trucks and the crane to the herd and start darting the animals from the helicopter. We make sure that we catch whole family herds at once, because the Family Alliance is very tight with elephants and we want to ensure families are not broken up.
LIFT & MOVE
Once the animal is asleep the elephant is lifted with thick rubber belts on the trailer. Everything happens very slowly, so that none of the animals takes harm. Then the elephant is slowly placed on a rubber mat. During the whole operation, veterinarians are busy checking the animals' sleep and vital signs. When the animal is secured on the trailer it goes slowly to the collecting point.
Then the animals are driven to the recovery box and pulled from the truck on the mat. This is no problem, because the trailer is very flat and everything happens very slowly. Elephant by elephant the recovery box fills up and when the herd is together, they’ll be woken up with an antidote to walk into the truck.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
We assume that we will collect and load the herd in one morning. Then the journey takes about 24 hours. We try to drive most of the night so that the animals have pleasant temperatures. The trucks are closed and have large ventilation flaps to protect the elephants' noses. Should there be delays such as a traffic jam, we have water for drinking and spraying the elephants so that they do not overheat. Wild animals do not need regular nourishment as do domestic animals, hence a 24 hour journey is not dangerous from a food and water point of view.
FIRST STAGE OF AN EXTENSIVE PLAN
The Rifa Safari Area is led by the Hemmersbach Rhino Force, who, as the first official act after the takeover of Rifa, had hunting banned on the entire area. Further resettlements from Sango to Rifa are to follow.