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Southern Africa is currently experiencing a significant challenge in terms of elephant numbers with many protected areas reaching their ecological carrying capacity. Urgent intervention is required to ensure that elephants do not need to be culled in the short to medium term future. In addition to this, elephant populations are constantly exposed to snaring, human-wildlife conflict, etc.

Early on Saturday morning, January 20th, WeWild Africa, gathered resources and funding, then organized and executed an emergency aerial rescue intervention of five elephants at Ndumo Game Reserve, in partnership with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, tracking and safely redirecting the elephants’ back to safety, and saving their lives. These elephants moved from the Kruger National Park, through Southern Mozambique and into the communities around Ndumo Game Reserve in South Africa. At least 13 elephants were shot in the region in December 2023 and WeWild Africa and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are now working together to mitigate the need to shoot elephants.

WeWild Africa is currently one of the only organisations in South Africa which is actively intervening to translocate elephants to areas which can accommodate more elephants, from areas where there are considered to be too many. This includes negotiating with new reserves to take on elephants and supporting them in the preparation to receive elephants.

WeWild Africa translocated over 20 elephants in 2023 alone and have actively been translocating elephants in the Southern African region since 2019. The organisation has secured the lives of over 200 elephants through translocation, collaring, removal of snares and providing advisory support to various reserves. WeWild Africa works throughout the region, supporting various reserves and other organisations in managing elephants.

WeWild Africa achieved significant results in 2023 by implementing the first ever translocations of family groups of elephants out of Addo Elephant National Park in partnership with South African National Parks and specialist capture company, Conservation Solutions. The operation moved two family groups from Addo to Bellevue Forest Reserve in the Eastern Cape and then to Babanango Game Reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Bulls were also moved with the family units to the receiving reserves. The success of this project means that more elephants can be moved out of Addo Elephant National Park to new reserves to reduce population pressures.

WeWild Africa has also been actively involved in trying to secure the lives of the elephants at Phongolo Nature Reserve which were being poached in 2023, in collaboration with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The organisation is now busy focusing on assisting with Human-Wildlife Conflict around Ndumo Game Reserve in partnership with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife as well.

WeWild Africa has become know as the go-to organisation for elephant rescues and translocations in South Africa. Dereck Milburn, Director of WeWild Africa, says ‘The management of elephant populations in Southern Africa is a critical topic which needs urgent attention, and a structured plan needs to be developed if we are to mitigate the need for culling in the short to medium term. WeWild Africa are here to provide support wherever we can, and we have been able to make a significant impact already, but we are only warming up… There is still much work to be done to secure the elephant populations of our region’.

WeWild Africa aims to expand their capacity to provide helicopter, collaring, veterinary and translocation support for even more areas and reserves in 2024. The organisation’s main aim however is to get regional stakeholders to start talking about a greater elephant strategy. Right now, WeWild Africa is filling gaps, but Governments and NGO’s need to start working together to develop a strategy for the SADC region.