International animal welfare organization Network for Animals (NFA) has made a dream come true for South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park by moving an elephant with big tusks there.

Tembe, a giant bull from the Tembe Elephant Park in KwaZulu-Natal was relocated 1,300 kilometers south to Addo with one big job – to go forth and multiply.

Elephants at Addo either have no tusks or very small tusks because the gene that makes big tusks was lost 150 years ago when all the big tuskers were hunted to extinction. Luke Barritt, NFA’s lead campaigner explained why this is important: “Not having tusks for an elephant is like not having arms for humans,” he said. “Elephants use their tusks for lifting, foraging and digging. They are also important as a defense against predators – a pride of lions are formidable hunters and will target young elephants. Tusked elephants are much better equipped to fight for the survival of their young. It’s Tembe’s job to reintroduce the tusk gene to the elephants of Addo.”

Barritt said it took months of planning by NFA and South African National Parks (SANParks) to ensure that Tembe made the journey safely, but in September 2019 all was ready. Tembe was darted from a helicopter and a veterinary team raced to give the sleeping giant a check-up. All was well and Tembe was hoisted on to a specially designed capture-truck. Vets administered a wake up drug and Tembe was ready to go.

“Twenty seven hours later, Tembe walked down the ramp into his new home, ready to complete his mission,” Barritt said. “We are monitoring Tembe constantly, and he is thriving in his new home. So much so, he has got four admirers!”