Can Artificial Intelligence Help Pinch Poachers?
31 October 2019
De Beers Group has progressed the pioneering ‘Moving Giants‘ elephant conservation initiative, with a second tranche of elephants successfully moved from South Africa to Zinave National Park in Mozambique last week.
The first herds of elephants were corralled at the VLNR on 25 June, before making their journey by road some 1,700km where they were released at Zinave on 27 June. The final herds arrived at Zinave on 11 July, bringing the total number of elephants moved in 2019 to 53.
The translocation is part of a major conservation effort – known as ‘Moving Giants’ – that aims to move some 200 elephants over three years in a bid to help secure the future of the VLNR, which at the beginning of last year was under threat due to too many elephants impacting the broader ecosystem, and to help repopulate Mozambique’s elephant population.
During the first phase of the project, 48 elephants were translocated in July and August 2018. These elephants, moved in family groups, consisted of matriarchs, younger males and females, and calves. Those elephants have been seen integrating with other herds at Zinave and have been thriving with more space and food now available to them. The remaining elephants at the VLNR are expected to be moved to national parks in Mozambique with sufficient elephant carrying capacity from next year.
De Beers Group is partnering with Peace Parks Foundation (Peace Parks), a leading not-for-profit transfrontier conservation organisation whose aim is to re-establish, renew and preserve large functional ecosystems, and Conservation Solutions – world-leading experts in wildlife management whose team manage the challenging logistics and veterinary care of the elephants throughout the process. Peace Parks co-manage Zinave National Park with the Mozambique government and have ongoing responsibility for the well-being of the elephants, ensuring they continue to thrive in their new environment.
Speaking from the VLNR during the second capture, Mpumi Zikalala, Managing Director, De Beers Group Managed Operations, said: “I was lucky enough to witness the most incredible situation play out in front of me. A family of elephants were sedated, then the team on the ground had to move quickly to load the elephants safely into the waiting trucks. It’s amazing to think that within two days’ of this happening they will arrive at their new home. It’s a very special privilege to witness first hand a conservation effort that will help secure the future for these elephants, and their future offspring, for generations to come.”
Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, said: “To be part of a conservation effort that will rehabilitate a national park in Mozambique and at the same time ensure that other species at one of our nature reserves in South Africa can flourish makes me feel very proud. Our commitment to protecting the natural world is something that all of us at De Beers Group feel very strongly about. In recovering diamonds – nature’s treasure – we need to treasure nature, and that is what this endeavour is all about.”
Werner Myburgh, CEO, Peace Parks Foundation, said: “The future of the African elephant is bleak in most parts of Africa, except for the southern Africa region where the outlook on their population numbers are stable and even, in some cases, increasing. Zinave National Park in Mozambique is one of these places and brings hope as a new founder population is on the rise. A rare new beginning in today’s day and age, where there is space and safety for these gentle giants. Thank you to our donors, De Beers Group in particular, and to our co-management partners ANAC, for helping to restore tomorrow.”
De Beers Group is backing up its investment in the elephant translocation initiative by providing Peace Parks with a further US$500,000 investment from the Anglo American Foundation to enhance and extend anti-poaching support measures. At Zinave, 25 new field rangers have been trained and employed from local communities, an operational aircraft has been purchased for aerial surveillance, and a digital radio network has been installed. An anti-poaching operations control room has also been established to coordinate efforts to prevent poaching throughout the park.
Peace Parks has been working with local communities to ensure that the introduction of the elephants to the park has a positive impact for their human neighbours. In Mozambique, 20 per cent of a national park’s revenue is granted to local communities and is managed through District and sub-District management structures. In addition to increasing employment in the region, the project has invested in community agriculture, bee keeping and water system improvements to date. It is also hoped that as the park is rehabilitated it will attract more tourists to the area, increasing revenues and creating further employment opportunities.