28 June 2008
Their hope lies in the creation of a system of transfrontier conservation areas between SA, Mozambique and Swaziland, which will include the creation of a corridor that will allow the long-separated elephants to meet up again and resume at least part of their old migratory routes.
Known as the Tembe elephants, many were killed or maimed as they got caught up in the escalating conflict that started with Mozambique's anticolonial struggle in the 1960s and its subsequent civil war.
Before that they were able to roam, in relative safety, a vast and sparsely populated area.
As the war escalated, some found a measure of protection in the Maputo Park. Others sought refuge in a rare and ecologically precious sand forest on the SA side of the border, which was proclaimed in 1983 as the Tembe Elephant Park and fenced off on the three southern sides for the mutual protection of the elephants, the forest and the surrounding communities.
Initially, Tembe's northern border was left open. But in 1989, the border was sealed off to discourage poaching.
Since then, the two groups have lived separately from each other. Those daring to cross the divide or those caught in-between have paid a heavy price.
Wayne Matthews, KwaZulu Natal's ecologist for the Maputaland region, speaks painfully of the killing and wounding of the animals before the northern border was sealed off.
In earlier times, he says, the animals had the relative freedom of a large and richly diverse terrain. "Then came the war and everything changed. There might have been some killing for meat. But, as we know, the ivory trade played no mean part in financing arms procurement.
"There were unintended injuries, too, like elephants stepping on land mines. Some got their trunks cut off by snares. Many carried bullet wounds from simply being shot at, sometimes willfully and in other instances probably to scare them off."
He says the elephants would have moved in and out of Tembe Park's sand forest as part of their old migrations. But human attrition would have caused them later to seek refuge in the dense vegetation.
"Those that fled here tended, at first, to be aggressive and unpredictable. To keep them and the surrounding communities safe, we had to fence them in. It was so bad, we had to make it a capital offence for any of our elephants to break out.
"We needed to maintain the integrity of the fence. The same did not apply to elephants breaking in. But now our elephants have generally calmed down and are less shy of humans."
The proposed transfrontier arrangement, which the countries hope to complete within three years, involves five separate conservation areas spanning their respective borders. But the one aimed at improving the lot of the Tembe elephant is by far the biggest and most ambitious.
It will see the creation of a fenced-off corridor of about 50km long and 20km wide to link the 78 000 ha Maputo Park with the 30 OOO ha Tembe Park.
This should allow safe passage to the approximately 250 elephants of Maputo and the 200 or so of Tembe to resume old acquaintances.
Matthews says the creation of the transfrontier park will not only be good for the elephants, but also for Tembe's habitat, by allowing them a broader roaming range rather than just circling the same area.
Meanwhile, the transfrontier development could be further boosted by park developments on the SA side of the border, giving rise to optimism among ecotourism operators that it will bring new economic life to their exquisitely beautiful but largely poor region.
28th August 2006 The Star - 23 August 2006
28 November 2016Further training to protect turtles
From 25-26 November, Centro Terra Viva presented a refresher training course for the 26 turtle monitors who cover the area from Ponta do Ouro to Ponta Mucombo in Mozambique. The training comprised botread more
15 November 2016Restocking national parks as part of transfrontier conservation development
A further 573 animals have been translocated to Maputo Special Reserve and 310 to Zinave National Park.read more
8 November 2016Wildlife thriving in Maputo Special Reserve, Mozambique
At the end of September, the Maputo Special Reserve/Tembe Elephant Park management committee conducted an aerial census to determine the status of the large herbivore species in Maputo Special Reserveread more
17 August 2016Protecting turtles in Africa's marine TFCA
Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve had another successful turtle monitoring season this year. The reserve comprises the Mozambican component of the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay TFCA, Africa's first cross-read more
21 March 2016Cross-border cooperation saves marine life
Thanks to the excellent cross-border cooperation between the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve in Mozambique and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa, a gill net measuring 20 x 3 metres waread more
16 February 2016Protecting turtles and marine life
The turtle monitoring season is in full swing in the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, the Mozambican component of the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay TFCA, Africa's first cross-border marine reserve, in tread more
13 May 2015A transfrontier conservation success story: first phase of wildlife translocations concluded
This month will see the conclusion of the first phase of wildlife translocations to Mozambique’s Maputo Special Reserve with the introduction of 98 zebra and 117 blue wildebeest.read more
13 January 2015Wildlife populations increasing steadily
In 2010 the Mozambican government began a translocation programme to Maputo Special Reserve in order to re-introduce species that were historically found in the area and to develop a tourism product.read more
21 November 2014World Bank Supports Mozambique’s Conservation and Biodiversity Efforts to Reduce Poverty
On 18 November 2014 the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors approved a US$40 million International Development Association (IDA)* grant to support the implementation of the government ofread more
2 September 2014Transfrontier Park Management Committee
Maputo Special Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park now have a transfrontier park management committee to provide direction and guidance on the implementation of the two parks' joint operational strategy.read more