Four hundred elephants and a herd of buffalo are among more than 2,000 animals that will traverse the length of Zimbabwe in the country’s second-biggest translocation of wildlife.
The program is a testament to the success of conservation programs on both public and private land in the south of the country and at the same time highlights the need to thin out elephant numbers in areas where they grow too numerous, killing trees by stripping off their bark and in the process reducing biodiversity.
Zimbabwe has about 80,000 elephants, second only to Botswana.
The animals will be moved by truck after being darted with tranquilizers from the privately owned Save Valley Conservancy and the government’s Gonarezhou National Park to wildlife areas near the country’s northern border, according to Tinashe Farawo, a spokesman for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management.
“We are trying to depopulate the area,” Farawo said in an interview. “There is now a loss of habitat and in the process we want to repopulate parks in the northern parts of the country which have fewer animals.”
Gonarezhou, a 5,000 square-kilometer (1,931 square miles) stretch of wilderness the name of which means ‘The place of the elephant,’ has a population of 12,000 elephants when its ecosystem can only support 5,000, Farawo said.
In addition 2,000 impala and 50 eland, both which are types of antelope, 70 giraffes, 10 lions and 10 African wild dogs will be moved.
The program rivals Operation Noah, a six-year rescue of animals from the rising waters of Lake Kariba as the world’s largest man-made reservoir filled up on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Over 6,000 animals ranging from leopards to snakes were moved to higher ground between 1958 and 1964.