She lays on the ground, her side rising and falling softly. As she sleeps, a crew of conservation experts works quickly to secure her feet for transport. She is then lifted by crane onto a platform and brought to a truck that will take her, along with her entire herd, 350 kilometers to a new home.
She has been chosen to join 500 other elephants being transported to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi. This is the largest translocation of elephants in human history, and just one example of African Parks’ efforts to protect endangered species across the continent.
African Parks (AP), a non-profit that works with governments and communities in Africa to gain long-term management of national parks and protected areas, has been making strides in conservation for 17 years. They currently manage 12 parks across seven countries and have made great progress in preserving Africa’s treasures for future generations.
By assuming management of the parks, AP is able to identify the necessities of each site in terms of protecting wildlife, preserving the ecosystem, and strengthening surrounding communities. All are important to ensure the overall success of the park so that it can become a safe haven and tourist attraction. While the process is long and often grueling, it yields extraordinary results.
Majete Wildlife Reserve, AP’s first project, can be called nothing other than a success. Once a wasteland with an absence of animals, poorly trained staff and few essential resources, the region has been completely transformed into a Big 5 attraction. By restocking the park with wildlife, training and equipping scouts and putting resources into the community, AP has created one of Africa’s greatest stories of hope.
But not all of the parks have fared so well. Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is situated in one of Africa’s most hostile regions, and is constantly the battleground between rangers and poachers. It is a perfect example of the threats AP faces across the continent: poaching, human-elephant conflict and the draining of natural resources.
Ivory tusks from elephants are a great temptation for poachers, while other species are hunted for meat or parts. Strict law enforcement has allowed for some populations to recover, but without the support of surrounding communities, parks like Garamba would not survive. Through community funds and education campaigns, AP has not only enriched the economies of their human neighbors, but have also created a concern for the beautiful wildlife around them.
As the elephant steps out of the truck and explores her new home for the first time, she begins the next stage of rebuilding. Today, Majete’s elephants have grown so numerous they are being pressed for space, and hundreds were moved by AP to Nkhotakota, where they can kickstart the recovery of another ecosystem. While AP cannot undo the damage already done to the treasure that is Africa, it can, and has, created the best chance for the future.
Kerry Skiff is a conservation advocate and recent journalism graduate of Northern Kentucky University. She follows the ivory trade around the world, and uses her voice to educate Americans about their role in animal conservation.