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Blog: 500 Elephants


Nov 2016

500 Elephants

A conservation initiative in Malawi with African Parks.

Prince Harry spent three weeks in Malawi helping to translocate elephants. Liwonde National Park has been so successful with elephant conservation that the current Liwonde population is destroying habitat and is unsustainable. A good problem to deal with!


Manhandling a mamouth!

Meanwhile, further north along the coast of Lake Malawi, Nkhotakota National Park has fewer than 100 elephants. So the ambitious plan was hatched to move out largest land mammal 350 Km north.

Prince Harry assisted with the first phase of the translocation last month during which 261 elephants were successfully re-homed in Nkhotakota. The remaining 239 elephants will be moved during summer of 2017 from Majete National Park. This is a park where you can make a behind the scenes visit.

Along with moving elephants, Prince Harry assisted with translocating a male rhino, 1,500 head of  game species such as antelope, buffalo, and zebra and re-collaring three lions in Majete with GPS collars. “There has to be a balance between the numbers of animals, and the available habitat. Just how nature intended it.” said Prince Harry. “In this case, African Parks, in partnership with the Malawian government, have re-established a safe area for elephants to be moved back to. This simultaneously relieves the pressure in Liwonde, and restocks Nkhotakota so both populations of elephants can continue to grow”.

Click below to view the two-minute film “The Journey of Giants” documenting the “500 Elephants” Initiative:-

The Journey of Giants featuring Prince Harry from African Parks on Vimeo.

There are three objectives:

  1. Relieve human-wildlife conflict
  2. Relieve pressure on the natural habitats
  3. Restore Nkhotakota National Park and make it a premiere elephant sanctuary for Malawi

Majete has been managed by African Parks since 2003 and is a conservation success story: most of its wildlife had been hunted out. Today, after African Parks reintroduced elephants, rhino, lions, leopard, buffalo and a host of other species, the park has rebounded making it Malawi’s only Big Five reserve and home to a population of more than 400 elephants; tourism has flourished and benefits are being derived by the local communities.

Liwonde and Nkhotakota were taken on in August of 2015 and immediately began fencing both parks (to reduce conflict in Liwonde, and prepare for the translocation in Nkhotakota) and have overhauled law enforcement in both places through ranger recruitment, training, active patrols and technology, making them more secure for wildlife. As Malawi is a densely-populated agro-based country, ecological corridors no longer exist to allow for natural migration, however the “500 Elephants” initiative is a human-assisted migration providing the best chance of a long-term and sustainable future for these elephants.


The ultimate tug-o-war

Under mounting pressure from poaching, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict, the African elephant is being increasingly threatened in many parts of the continent. Numbering as many as 10,000,000 a century ago, recent census results indicate they have been reduced to fewer than 450,000. The ‘best guess’ is that between 30,000 to 40,000 elephants are poached every year to feed the insatiable demand for ivory.

“Good news in conservation is often just the absence of bad news” says Peter Fearnhead from African Parks “What we’re seeing with ‘500 Elephants’ is a pivotal moment for Malawi who is emerging as a leader in African elephant conservation. We’re looking head on at the consequences of well-managed protected areas like Majete with increasing populations of elephants and other species, and how this creates opportunities for wildlife and communities. It’s a story of hope and survival, and serves as inspiration as to what is possible”.

The following video is a 10 minute overview of the 500 Elephants campaign in 2016 from the People’s Postcode lottery, which supported the initiative:



African Parks is a non-profit conservation organisation that takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. With the largest counter-poaching force for any one NGO in Africa, more than 600 rangers, and the most amount of area under protection for any one NGO in Africa, African Parks manages 10 national parks and protected areas in seven countries covering 6,000,000 Ha in Malawi, Zambia, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Chad. Visit www.500elephants.org and www.african-parks.org to learn more.

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