Mount Camdeboo orchestrates specialist translocation operation to save escaped elephant from being killed

An African elephant bull that escaped an Eastern Cape game reserve for a second time in recent weeks was on Thursday set to be shot. However, due to an expeditious, conservation response from Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve in joint partnership with the owners of the elephant, the Eastern Cape’s Department of Economic Development and a conservation task team of elephant and translocation experts, the bull is set to receive a reprieve from this death sentence.

Although this large bull of approximately 20 to 25 years of age has over the last few days, wandered across neighbouring farms and roads it appears to be an extremely calm and relaxed animal and thus far has not been a threat to anyone.

It is for this reason that the task team comprising of Dereck Milburn of the Aspinall Foundation, an expert dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife; Dr William Fowlds, a well-respected wildlife veterinarian; Brett Mitchell, an elephant expert of the Elephant Reintegration Trust; Peter Chadwick, a protected area and conservation specialist; and Mount Camdeboo (whose ethos is #conservationinaction), have put forward a far more pragmatic solution that will hopefully save the animal.

The Eastern Cape’s Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs were able to issue the relocation permit within a short time; whereafter it was concluded by the parties that it would be in the best interest of the bull to be translocated to Mount Camdeboo – who fully understand the risk of receiving this elephant. In only 30 hours, the task team faciliated the translocation of the elephant.

After initial immobilisation, via aerial darting, the elephant will be translocated for release at Mount Camdeboo by Conservation Solutions, whose expertise in safe, wildlife capture is well-renowned. Specialised equipment that will be needed to move this large animal has been specially transported from KwaZulu-Natal.

On arrival at its new home, Dr William Fowlds, his veterinary team, Conservation Solutions as well as a helicopter will be on standby for a period of up to 24 hours to monitor the elephant’s condition during and after the translocation. A satellite-tracking collar will also be fitted to allow for the constant monitoring of the bull as it settles into its new environment.

The bull will join a small breeding herd of elephants that were released on to the property in August this year. Despite this rescue plan, it is however recognised by all that this is an extremely complex operation with multiple risks still posing a threat to the elephant’s survival.

Dereck Milburn, the main coordinator of this monumental effort said, “the dedication from all parties has been absolutely incredible, and, without the initial call for assistance from Michele Pickover with the full support of John and Sandra Skinner, little would have been possible. Iain Buchanan and Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve have been indispensable throughout this operation, as have Patrick Grewar and the Elephants, Rhinos & People (ERP) team. The teams have gone beyond the call of duty to secure the life of this elephant. I am extremely confident that they will continue to do so to ensure the elephant settles in well. Wildlife 911, represented by Chris Holcroft, have also truly demonstrated their commitment to wildlife rescue by generously funding this translocation operation.”.

These synergistic efforts, unparalleled teamwork and unrelenting commitment to ensure the safety of the elephant have undoubtedly demonstrated that this teamwork approach can solve conservation challenges, such as saving the life of an elephant. It should be regarded as a benchmark as to how future complex conservation operations could be handled.

Press Release – 12th October 2019