520 elephants have new, safer homes thanks to a record relocation effort

The largest elephant relocation effort in history has finally come to a successful end. 

A total of 520 elephants were taken from two separate conservation spaces — Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve — and moved more than 200 miles to their new home in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. 

Veterinarians and conservationists from African Parks, a non-governmental and non-profit organization that manages parks and protected areas, carried out the massive translocation in the span of two years. 

African Parks announced the completion of the effort on Twitter on Aug. 2

The relocation involved capturing and sedating all the elephants one by one, with sedation being a crucial step in relocating the six-ton pachyderms. 

The tranquilizers are made of a synthetic opioid that’s 10,000 times more potent than morphine. One drop of it could kill a human within seconds. Conservationists managed to tranquilize the elephants from helicopters and then used cranes to move the elephants onto trucks. 

Being social animals, it was vital that close family groups were moved together. This helped to reduce the elephants’ stress and increased the chance of them successfully adapting to their new environment. 

Kaddu Sebunya, African Wildlife Foundation president, thanked African Parks for the completion of the effort.

Overcrowding in their former reserves — as elephant populations have grown and civilization has crept closer and closer — has led to intensifying conflicts with humans. Conservationists hope that the new home will give the elephants more space and improved safety.

Many of the transported elephants had been victims of violence, a fact evidenced by bullet-shaped holes in their ears.

According to National Geographic, African Parks officials hope Nkhotakota will become one of Malawi’s leading elephant wildlife reserves and help improve the region’s employment and tourism opportunities.

As for the elephants themselves, the newly transplanted gentle giants creates a more even distribution of their population across both their original homes and their new one, creating a safer environment for growth.

WATCH: Watch this team rescue an elephant that was swept into the sea

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