Adding more info to the above posts, I have managed to get hold of this posted in The Argus on Sunday, 27th March.
The great elephant herds of the Kruger National Park, under threat of culling, are migrating in growing numbers across the border into Mozambique's adjacent Limpopo Park.
Flying by helicopter over Limpopo Park last Friday, we could see several herds and single bulls moving through the bush that had formerly been denuded of game by Mozambique's protracted war and by serving as a coutada, or hunting ground, under earlier Portuguese colonial rule.
Also on the helicopter flight, sponsored by South Africa's Peace Parks Foundation, was an excited Dr Markus Hofmeyr, head of Kruger's veterinary wildlife services.
He believes that the elephants are signalling each other that it is safe to return to their old stomping grounds in the Mozambican area now that the war is over and it no longer serves as a hunting place or as a "bush meat" abattoir for guerrilla fighters.
This is a remarkable change from four years ago, when most of the first group of 25 elephants, which were symbolically handed over to Mozambique by former president Nelson Mandela to start repopulating their park, made a dash back to the safety of Kruger.
Most found openings in the high-security fence at river crossings, but Hofmeyr says one bull trundled for many kilometres along the fence until he was able to round it where it meets the Limpopo River border in the far north.
Other game, notably giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest, impala and kudu, have joined the elephants in crossing from Kruger through gaps in the fence, mostly at river crossings.
From the helicopter, fair numbers were spotted moving about in the unspoilt and beautiful Mozambican terrain of high-cliffed river gorges, valleys and rolling hills.
Hofmeyr says they, too, have probably been taking their cue from game translocated over the past two years by truck from Kruger into a 30 000 hectare enclosure in the Mozambican part to get them used to living on that side of the security fence.
The translocation of 3 000 head of game should be completed this year, and the enclosure will then be opened at the furthest point away from Kruger for the animals to start making their own way into their new country.
Professor Willem van Riet, chief executive of the Peace Parks Foundation, says the voluntary migration to Limpopo Park shows that translocations can work in the short term if done effectively. It is the small translocated groups that are enticing the others across the border.
Only a relatively small portion of the high-security border fence separating the two parks has been removed since they were ceremonially joined together two years ago, with, in name only, Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou Park.
Together they are called the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park but the actual link-up across the Limpopo River with Gonarezhou in troubled Zimbabwe will take a while longer.
Security concerns, especially about illegal immigrants and the smuggling of weapons and four-wheel-drive vehicles, have been hindering the removal of more sections of the border fence between the Kruger and Limpopo parks.
But control systems are now in place that will make it easier to proceed with the removal of more sections of the fence, which was put up in the mid-70s at the height of the regional conflict that also involved apartheid South Africa.
The migration of elephants into Mozambique will relieve some of the pressure on Kruger where their burgeoning numbers have been causing serious harm to the habitat. But it is unlikely to stave off culling.
The elephant population has simply gone too far out of control since a moratorium was placed on it in 1995. Kruger has about 13 000 elephants, and its maximum carrying capacity is set at about 7 000. Limpopo Park can at most take 3 000.
At a million hectares it is half the size of Kruger and an even bigger percentage of it is not suitable elephant habitat. So soon it, too, will be under pressure if Kruger's elephants keep migrating.
A final decision on culling, already building into a major bone of contention among animal-rights groups internationally, should be taken some time this year by Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the environmental affairs and tourism minister.
Meanwhile, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park's elephant migration should serve as encouragement for southern Africa's transfrontier-park programme, in which the Peace Parks Foundation is playing a major facilitating role.
According to the 2002 African Elephant Status report of the World Conservation Union, the estimated population for southern Africa - South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland - now stands at 300 000.
Botswana has by far the worst problem, with an estimated 120 000 elephants in its Chobe Reserve and Okavango Delta
It's a fascinating subject indeed. It's just a pity that most of the old migratory routes were east-west and not north-south. Imagine adding even more to the east and west than what is currently proposed!
Last edited by Tokoloshe on Mon Mar 28, 2005 8:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.