Published: 14:54, 13 November 2020
| Updated: 15:27, 13 November 2020
A Kent conservationist charity has been instrumental in re-locating young elephants in order to secure their genetics for the future.
The three Tuskers, used to describe an elephant with tusks weighing 45kg or more, have been moved from the Tembe Elephant Park in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, to two new homes.
The Aspinall Foundation - which runs animal parks' Port Lympne, near Hythe, and Howletts, near Canterbury - was behind the move in an effort to infuse their unique ‘tusker’ genetics into other elephant populations in the country.
This will help secure these genes for future generations.
It comes after the Tembe Elephant Park, which was established in 1983 to protect the last remaining herds of free-roaming elephants in South Africa, known as the 'Great Tuskers', has seen a growth in elephant population.
Previously, these giants used to seasonally roam between Mozambique and Maputaland in the extreme north of KwaZulu-Natal, before finding sanctuary in Tembe where they have now settled.
It is hoped one day the elephant populations will be reunited across the international border, but until that is achieved, bosses are having to come up with creative solutions for dealing with the growing population at the relatively small reserve, run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
Current solutions include contraception for female elephants and the translocation of surplus elephant bulls.
Damian Aspinall, chairman of The Aspinall Foundation, said; "As conservationists, we need to simulate historic migratory patterns through translocation, to ensure that these genetics can be infused into other elephant populations.
"We are very thankful that the project went smoothly and that the elephants have arrived safely in their new homes."
The first elephant bull was translocated to Somkhanda Game Reserve, a community owned reserve, located in close proximity to the town of Pongola in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Province.
Roelie Kloppers, CEO of Somkhanda’s co-management partner, The WILDTRUST, said: "The Great Tuskers of Tembe are known all over the world as majestic giants.
"Bringing a Tembe elephant into Somkhanda’s herd will enable the continuation of the Tembe Tusker lineage in this reserve.
"This will not only be a massive boost for tourism here, but also contribute to conservation efforts of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in Tembe Elephant Park.
"We are very proud to play a little role in support of this."
The other two Tuskers undertook a 27-hour, 1,700 km journey, to Buffalo Kloof Private Game Reserve, in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.
Buffalo Kloof is a private reserve, owned by the Rippon family and has become a sanctuary for numerous rescue animals and is also home to a large black rhino breeding programme.
The Aspinall Foundation rescued a herd of 11 elephants from starvation in 2019, which were also translocated to the sanctuary of Buffalo Kloof.
The move was helped by the Aspinall's partner, Albus Environmental.
Andrew White, of Albus Environmental, said, "It is our responsibility to give back and make a difference through conservation minded decisions.
"These animals are one of nature’s greatest treasures and we are immensely proud to be partnered in this amazing project, securing threatened genetics."
The reserve management teams are now continuously monitoring the elephants, and report that they are settling in well and are very relaxed.
Dereck Milburn, regional director for The Aspinall Foundation, said: "Conservation sometimes requires drastic measures to secure the future of a species.
"By translocating these three magnificent animals, we believe that we have made a tangible contribution to the future survival of the tuskers of Africa.
"We consider ourselves privileged to work with these giants!”
The capture process was managed by elephant capture specialists Kester Vickery and Conservation Solutions.
Satellite collars, which were donated by the Malcolm Family based in the United States, were fitted onto the elephants, allowing the reserve management teams to monitor their well-being in their new homes.
Earlier this month, the Aspinall Foundation launched an appeal to help the animal parks survive lockdown.
They are also raising money to help provide better homes for three rescued lions and a family of brown bears.