Elephant-human clashes in Malawi force mass translocation

June 5th, 2009 - 8:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, June 5 (DPA) The government of Malawi is teaming up with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to move over 60 elephants from a densely-populated area where at least 10 people have been killed by elephants scavenging for food, IFAW said Friday.
A spokeswoman for IFAW told DPA Friday that the operation to move the wild elephants from Mangoche district on the southern shores of Lake Malawi to a wildlife reserve would begin at the weekend.

Parts of Malawi, along with parts of Mozambique, Namibia and other southern African countries with both growing elephant and human populations are grappling with growing cases of human-elephant conflict.

In Malawi, the problem arose when a herd of elephants was driven by drought about five years ago from a plateau into a densely-populated lake-side district of mainly subsistence farmers, IFAW’s Christina Pretorius told DPA.

As the human population swells, eating into the elephants’ habitats, the elephants have begun raiding the villagers crops and granaries, IFAW said.

The enraged villagers are fighting back, using bullets, arrows and snares.

“Some elephants have had their trunks amputated by snares set by local villagers, while others are suffering from wounds caused by bullets, arrows and nail-embedded planks as well as poisoning,” Jason Bell-Leask IFAW’s southern Africa director said in a statement announcing the elephant rescue operation.

“In order to save these elephants, we must act now - otherwise they will be killed as “problem animals”, he said.

Over the next month, IFAW will dart and tranquilise the elephants and then load them into vehicles for the six-hour journey to Majete Wildlife Reserve in the southwest.

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