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Zimbabwe animal release - elephant update!

Today we received an important and uplifting update from Tikki Hywood Trust, the organization that has dealt with the release of captured animals following Zimbabwe's decision to cancel the highly controversial deal with North Korea.

Our strong hope continue to be that Zimbabwe will ban the capture and sale of wild animals permanently, for the best interest of the animals themselves, Zimbabwe's tourism revenue and the country's world wide image. This is also what we argued for in the letter (180.02 kB) sent to Zimbabwe's wildlife authorities 21 May 2010, copied to President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and others. The letter was signed by over 50 organizations from around the world.

Todays newsletter from Tikki Hywood Trust:

For those of you who have not, yet read the full story of the animals captured in Hwange National Park, who were destined for an overseas zoo, please read our newsletter dated: July 10th 2010 at www.zimbabwe7.wildlifedirect.org

The very, anticipated morning arrived, 12th July 2010. Makwa and Kennedy (the juvenile male and female elephants) were to be moved to their new, if only temporary home - Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust (WHWT) in Victoria Falls. Both young elephants could not have behaved more perfectly. Thanks to the skill of Vic Coetzee and his years of experience in wildlife capture and handling, both elephants walked out of the bomas, which had been their home for the past two months, and onto the truck which was to take them to WHWT. When I learnt, that Vicus had agreed to do the capture and translocation of these two elephants, it most certainly brought a smile to my face. In 1992 it was the legendary Clem Coetzee, Vicus's father who taught me about wildlife and what conservation meant. I was to learn over those three months of moving family herds of elephants out of the drought stricken Ghonerezhou National Park, that people who care can move mountains, or perhaps in this case elephants.

We were delighted that the two National Park Elephant handlers who were taking care of Makwa and Kennedy in Hwange, were coming along as well to settle the elephants into their new home. This is hugely, important as the handlers have become the elephants surrogate family, and to minimise the stress and fear of translocation it is vital that they have a familiar face to reassure them. The trip from Umtshibi in Hwange National Park to WHWT is around 200 kms, so both elephants were given a mild sedative which helped with the journey.

When the truck arrived with both Makwa and Kennedy, the resident elephant herd at WHWT, could be heard. Makwa the female was the first to leave the safety of the truck. She was escorted to her new stable where there was food, water and browse ready, for her. Kennedy, the more wary of the two, followed shortly after Makwa. They were stabled independently but along side each other. Makwa and Kennedy were captured from two separate herds and so are not related, so in affect the two of them have to adapt to one another as well. The reason why the two young elephants have to now go through this rehabilitation phase is because the can not be returned to their family herds from which they were taken. When they were captured, they were going to an overseas zoo, and therefore parent herds were not marked for post-capture monitoring. So this means that their family herds cannot be reliably identified.

The following day both Makwa and Kennedy were taken out of their stables and introduced to the main herd which is to become their new family. This is still the first step in the rehabilitation of these two elephants, however so far things are looking positive and for the first time in a couple of months both elephants got to walk in amongst the bush, where they should always be. They are now part of a process where they will be socialising with other elephants of all ages, to develop a more natural herd system. By these two elephants being introduced to older elephants, they will also be disciplined and taught the social graces of what it is to being an elephant, a wild one that is.