In two days, Network for Animals will begin moving a family of 27 elephants to wilderness that last saw elephants more than 150 years ago. Their new home in the north of the Addo National Park in South Africa is in an area where they will be able to breed safely, far from deadly poaching areas.

The helicopters have arrived, the game capture team is in position. So far so good. It’s the middle of winter and its cold in South Africa’s Addo National Park where the elephants live. There’s tension in the air because what we are about to do is difficult and a little dangerous. If it rains the whole operation has to be postponed and that would be very costly. We are all a little nervous.

But it will be worth it because we are helping elephants. The United Nations estimates that 100 elephants are killed in Africa by poachers every day. If poaching is not stopped elephants could be extinct in the wild in the next decade. The population has fallen by 110,000 over the last 10 years to just 415,000 in the whole of Africa.

Mission Jumbo

“It is a proud moment for NFA,” said David Barritt, NFA’s campaign director. “At a time when the United Nations estimates that 100 elephants are killed in Africa by poachers every day, we are doing something that should make sure elephants are safe in the wild.

Poachers kill elephants for their tusks which are then carved into trinkets for tourists. In South Africa most of the poachers cross the unguarded border from Mozambique, shoot elephants and hack off their tusks before fleeing back across the border.

Addo is a 1000 miles from Mozambique border and the elephants new home is in an isolated area far from main roads.

At the moment, the elephants live in Addo’s main area which is separated from the new area by railways and roads. Network for Animals has worked with South African National Parks to safely move the elephants by road to an area where elephants once roamed before being wiped out by hunters. They have to be moved in a family group which means that we are moving the matriarch (elephant families are always headed by one female) young bulls and cows and youngster plus the very important older bull whose job it is to make babies.

The process started two months ago when Addo rangers identified a suitable family group and herded them by helicopter to an area which was then temporarily fenced. In three days’ time, the family will be darted from helicopters, loaded on to trucks and driven to the new area.