Jumbo journey

25 September 2002

LETABA - As part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) initiative, another batch of 50 Kruger National Park (KNP) elephant has been relocated to Mozambique.

And in full view of the world's media, part of this consignment, a group of six elephant, walked out of a game relocation truck into a specially fenced area of the newly proclaimed Limpopo National Park (LNP) on Friday.

The group, which includes two cows and their calves and two sub-adults, will hopefully join more than 1 000 former KNP animals in LNP. These animals include blue wildebeest, giraffe, impala, warthog, waterbuck and zebra and will now boost the depleted wildlife population in LNP.

A 35 000 hectare area has been fenced off, thanks to German funding, in the south-eastern sector of the LNP to create a wildlife sanctuary for the relocation of the animals.

Surrounded by 52 kilometres of fencing, this sanctuary was created in consultation with the local communities. Job opportunities for these people, including the erection of this fence, were also created.

During the handing over ceremony before the elephant were released, Peace Parks Foundation chief executive officer Professor Willem van Riet said the relocation project was merely a small part of a giant project that involved three countries.

"The GLTP area in Mozambique will eventually include a million hectare area of protected wildlife," he said.

He quipped that the animals released would hopefully stay in Mozambique and not follow the elephant that, after their release last year, returned to the KNP.

Sasol's Mr Paul Kruger said he was proud that his company had donated R100 000 towards the cost of the relocation. "It is important for us to show we care for our wildlife resources and I would just like to say "obrigado" to the local community which has thrown its weight behind the project."

During his speech, KNP director Mr David Mabunda said the batch of elephant was part of the lobola mentioned by former South African president Nelson Mandela. At last year's elephant relocation, Mandela - who is a patron of the Peace Parks Founndation -quipped that the elephant were lobola for his marriage to Graca Machel. "Just like normal lobola, we are paying this off in batches and the rest will come later," he said.

Mabunda allayed the fears of some South Africans by saying that the LNP was also fenced off and patrolled by Mozambican rangers. "Those guys are armed with AK-47s so any poacher would be ill-advised to take them on," Mabunda concluded.

* When it is completed in August 2004, the translocation process will deliver approximately 6 000 head of game of various species thanks to an R8 million grant from the Peace Parks Foundation. Peace Parks, which is the brainchild of Dr Anton Rupert, will also make a further R10 million available for future translocation exercises.

* The GLTP comprises the recently proclaimed LNP in Mozambique, the KNP in South Africa, the Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe and two areas linking Kruger to Gonarezhou, namely the Sengwe communal land in Zimbabwe and the Makuleke region of South Africa.

* In the past the KNP was forced to cull many elephant annually because of over-population but translocation of these huge beasts would eliminate the culling process.

LowvelderRaymond Travers

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