Nkhotakota was once home to more than 1,500 elephants. Over the last two decades, lack of protection coupled with the insatiable demand for precious ivory reduced this once vibrant herd to fewer than 100 individuals, and most of the other wildlife had been hunted out too. Just two years ago, Nkhotakota, which spans 1,800km2 was an empty forest; and the silence was deafening.
But African Parks envisioned something else for this landscape.
African Parks immediately began overhauling law enforcement, and initiated plans for the historic translocation of 500 elephants from Liwonde and Majete, two other parks under African Parks’ management that had a surplus of elephants. In 2016, Nkhotakota received 261 elephants from Liwonde and 1,117 head of game animals from both Liwonde and Majete including 200 sable, 100 kudu, 92 buffalo, 404 waterbuck, 122 impala, and 199 warthog. Of the elephants, 21 were bulls and the rest made up small family units. Seven bulls and 20 matriarchs received collars for continued long-term monitoring and species management.
Despite initial territoriality over the sanctuary fence between resident and newly translocated elephant bulls, all of the animals settled in quickly and became familiar with their surroundings. The elephants are thriving. There have been several recent sightings by our Park Manager and rangers on patrol of very young elephants that have been born in Nkhotakota in the last six months. While we have yet to confirm numbers, given gestation is 22 months for elephants we can confirm that these calves were conceived in Liwonde, that they made the journey safely to Nkhotakota, and they have now provided new life to this once empty park.
The translocated elephants are monitored by ground and air surveillance with no poaching incidents through the remainder of the year; and all translocated animals thrived with no negative effects on the habitat within the sanctuary.
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