The country with too many elephants

In one of the largest animal translocations attempted, one team is in the process of moving 500 elephants to new pastures

On a glorious morning in Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi, a team at African Parks, a conservation group, is preparing what was once unthinkable.

The park is full of wildlife, hippos wallow in cool water and impala and waterbuck roam nearby.

In the distance, far from this idyllic scene, some commotion has recently occurred - rumbling blades slicing the air, giant feet thudding across the ground, stray zebra darting away from the scene.

In the clear blue skies above the park each day, a helicopter has been circling families of about twelve elephants, driving them from the protection of the thick bush out onto the dry, open grasslands.

This is the site of one of the world's largest animal translocations ever attempted.

In June 2016, the process of moving 500 elephants from southern to northern Malawi began.

The reason for moving them is surprising - while Africa as a continent struggles to protect the elephant species from extinction, in Malawi's Liwonde National Park there are actually too many of these giant creatures roaming the plains.

The oversupply of elephants in this region negatively affects the ecosystem and causes human-wildlife conflict.

As there are so many elephants, the animals are forced to leave the park and stray onto the surrounding farmland, eating farmers' crops and in turn, being attacked by the locals who are trying to make a living.

Yet further north in Malawi, there are not enough elephants, and the parks would benefit from their presence.

The solution, according to Malawi's Department of National Parks and African Parks, is a massive elephant translocation.

Down a crackly phone connection between Malawi and Nairobi, Kester Vickery, founder of Conservation Solutions, the organisation hired in to manage the project, explains the experience of moving these gentle giants to me, from start to finish.

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