August 8, 2018

11:58 am

These Giants Are Moving

Welcome to Moving Giants.

In launching our website and overall campaign today, we aim to bring visitors multi-media coverage of elephant- and conservation-oriented news from Southern Africa and around the world.

The name "Moving Giants" refers to an elephant-translocation project that is moving 200 elephants from a South Africa nature reserve (which has more elephants than its ecosystem can handle sustainably) to a national park in Mozambique (which at the beginning of the year had just eight elephants).

In addition to being one of Africa’s most iconic creatures, elephants also play a critical ecosystem role as a keystone species. That means that hundreds of other species — both fauna and flora — depend on elephants for their survival.

And with the African elephant under threat — 40,000 are killed annually, and their numbers are nosediving — that poses an existential crisis for life on the continent generally.

But translocations offer a potential solution to this elephant emergency and the Moving Giants project is the longest elephant translocation ever attempted.

The Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve [VLNR] — in the north of South Africa, close to the Zimbabwe border — has a carrying capacity of about 60 elephants. That means its ecosystem can handle 60 elephants. As of July 2018, VLNR had more than 275 elephants.

The number of these massive creatures in the 124 square-mile park park has — through no fault of the elephants — imperiled the balance of the overall ecosystem.

After years of searching for a destination to send the excess elephants and relieve the pressure on the park, a willing partner was found in Mozambique.

Mozambique is also unique on the continent, but in a decidedly different way than its western neighbor South Africa. Mozambique suffered a brutal civil war from 1977 to 1992, a conflict that saw the loss of one million lives — many from famine. The country’s once teeming wildlife suffered, as well, as nearly all of the animals in this lush, beautiful country, were consumed by warring armies and the food-deprived populace.

Now a recovering Mozambique is ready to "re-wild" its parks, and Moving Giants from VLNR to Zinave National Park (which is more than 12 times the size of Venetia), is poised to be a conservation model for the entire continent: Relieve one ecosystem from the numbers of an overpopulated species, and move that species into another ecosystem where it can spark life.

Of course, moving 200 elephants about 1700 kilometers is no easy task. It requires a cutting-edge technological solution, one that was not possible even two years ago. But advances in both conservation-management theory and technology — particularly in all-terrain vehicles that can more easily aid in recovery of tranquilized animals — have enabled the possibility for this kind of operation.

Now Moving Giants is attempting to be a win-win-win solution: simultaneously saving two different ecosystems and pushing the capabilities of this technology to pave a sustainable path forward for Africa, for conservation, for habitats and for the elephants themselves.