Desert bull elephant finds a new home

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On Saturday, 18 April 2020, the bull elephant having taken up residence in the Swakop river and endeared himself to local residents, was relocated to the Zannier Reserve By N/a’an ku sê in a joint operation with METF.

The elephant, a stray male of unknown origin and estimated to be approximately 25 years old, appeared in the Swakopmund area in December 2019. He displayed some injuries and signs of undernourishment at the time. The Namibian Ministry of Environment Tourism and Forestry (METF) monitored the elephant and, under the guidance of Ministry veterinarian, Dr. Janine Sharpe, successfully fitted him with a GPS collar in January 2020. Closer examination during the collaring process revealed that the elephant had gained weight and his injuries had healed well.

Few weeks later, the elephant was declared a problem animal by METF. The N/a’an ku sê Foundation, was identified by METF as a partner in mitigating the situation.

In Namibia identified problem animals are dealt with in one of either three ways: the animal is destroyed; trophy hunted or relocated to a protected, conflict-free environment. In a bid to avoid destroying the animal, the Ministry of Environment Tourism and Forestry decided to relocate the elephant to the Zannier Reserve by N/a’an ku sê – a 7,500-hectare protected reserve established for the benefit of perceived problem animals.

“Of late we received concerns from the residents of Rossmund of the Swakopmund area that the animal has been causing damages to their palm trees, coming to their swimming pools and moving around residential areas. There has been a fear it might cause threats to human life in the area. Therefore the Ministry declared the animal as a problem-causing animal. Zannier Reserce hy N/a’an ku sê has been identified as a suitable property where this animal can be properly looked after.” Mr. Colgar Sikopo, Director of Parks and Wildlife (METF).

On Saturday, 18 April 2020, Mr. Colgar Sikopo, METF’s Director of Parks and Wildlife, and Dr. Janine Sharpe, METF veterinarian, together with the N/a’an ku sê team, performed the relocation. Wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Ulf Tubbesing, assisted by N/a’an ku sê veterinarian, Dr. Maaike De Schepper, was in charge of the relocation process.

Darted and sedated from a helicopter, the elephant was lifted by crane onto a 4×4 transport truck. The 4×4 transport truck was required to access the elephant’s location in the soft riverbed sands. From this location the elephant was transported to the container truck, less than 1km away. After loading the elephant onto the container truck, the journey to his new home began. Accompanied by police escort, the elephant was transported from the Swakopmund area to the Zannier Reserve by N/a’an ku sê, a 6-hour journey by road with the elephant carefully monitored throughout.

Upon arrival at the Zannier Reserve by N/a’an ku sê, during the early evening hours, the elephant was released into a temporary 1-hectare soft-release boma specifically created for him – allowing him to grow accustomed to electrified fencing. This is vital to his wellbeing on the reserve itself. On Monday, 20 April 2020, less than 48 hours later, the elephant was released onto the 7,500 protected hectares of the Zannier Reserve by N/a’an ku sê.

All associated relocation costs, including the construction of the soft-release boma, were covered by the Shiloh Wildlife Sanctuary, the elephant clinic located by the Zannier Reserve by N/a’an ku sê. Marlice van Vuuren, Executive Director of the N/a’an ku sê Foundation, expressed her gratitude to the Shiloh Wildlife Sanctuary, and the elephant was named Apollo by Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. Dr. Rudie van Vuuren, CEO of N/a’an ku sê and Managing Director of Zannier Reserve by N/a’an ku sê, expressed his appreciation towards the METF, the police, NCAA and MWTC for the utterly efficient way the operation was conducted. The current lockdown regulations were strictly employed by the Swakopmund police force and health officials.

See all photos & videos of the relocation


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Zannier Reserve by N/a’an ku sê is a conservation reserve of 7,500 hectares where animals such as rhinos, elephants, wild dogs, lions or cheetahs are released and protected 24/7 by an Anti-Poaching. Founded in 2018 in Windhoek East by Zannier Hotels who partnered with Naankuse Foundation, it is dedicated to the safe release of endangered animals in the wild.