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ELEPHANT RELOCATION: HIGH RISKS CONSERVANCY


THE PEOPLE VERSUS WILDLIFE: HIGHLIGHTING THE EFFORTS OF HUMANITY IN REDRESSING THE IMBALANCES

PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID DODDS

DAWN PATROLS

Helicopters on standby and Veterinary Staff preparing the syringes for the encounter.

RISK MANAGEMENT FOR THE GREATER GOOD


With the turmoil in weather patterns worldwide, Zimbabwean wildlife are at the threshold of a major relocation of animals to rejuvenate starvation losses in badly affected areas, and none more so at the forefront of this activity than Zimbabwe’s Savé Valley Conservancy.

Their program includes a relocation plan for as many as 600 elephant, two prides of lions, a wild dog encampment, buffalo, giraffe and effectively 2000 impala. And none of which could come about without the sustained effort and excellent commitment of the Conservancy to highlight the benefits to local communities of sustainable conservation.


Their website and activities document a well-deserved donations campaign, as well as offering great african accommodation and wildlife experiences.



However, none of these relocations come without risk.

Thanda Private Game Reserve in South Africa demonstrated a successful relocation program.


A campaign at Thanda Private Game Reserve in Northern Zululand to relocate 24 elephant in a group highlights the medical problems that can escalate into a rapid and unwitting emergency. In the darting and drugging process, the ground crew prepare as reasonable an open location as possible to the targeted herd, and go on standby with Veterinary staff and the requisite vehicles for eventual transportation.

An elephant rails against the helicopter to defend the herd.

The helicopter darting activity first starts with a herding process of the elephant group, already in itself a stressful activity for the targeted animals, to bring them within accessible range of the waiting vehicles.


Once this is co-ordinated, the darting process from the helicopter, with selected dosages available according to elephant size, takes place within as short a period as possible.

Once all animals are down, the rush signal is given for ground staff to approach as fast as possible, in particular with accompanying lifting machinery on the low bed trucks.


This is because the larger elephants may fall onto the babies in their efforts to protect, but create a potential for the young ones to have difficulty in breathing. The madcap early stage is to ensure that a ‘lifting’ vehicle can alleviate this eventuality in as short a time as possible, and the ground staff need to check everywhere for problems, often over quite a large and un-wieldy spread of african bush.

The next high concern factor is spread over several hours.


The animals need to be lifted onto low bed trucks, but the process can only happen so fast. During this time, the Veterinary staff rush back and forth monitoring for any signs of awakening from the sleeping giants, and other staff continuously water their ears to keep them cool in the waiting period.

Depending on where they fell in the disturbance period, the baby elephants often will be disassociated from their normal patriarchy.


It is indeed a warming experience that the protection mode within the herd immediately becomes apparent when the animals wake up in the confines of the giant transporting vehicles.

The youngsters have been recorded receiving immediate soothing by the older parties, a huge relief given the human uncertainty of who belongs to whom, and a vital process for the journey ahead.

At the Thanda relocation, at least the release venue was a relatively short forty kilometres away,

but the whole process rendered on until nearly midnight after the initial surge of dawn activities.

Researching

www.thanda.com

will reveal an outstanding

bookable Safari Lodge experience,

along with other luxurious facilities

such as Thanda Private Island.


At some point, it becomes imperative that this thing doesn't fall on your head.