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The death toll has increased to seven in the Malawi elephant relocation project, which is connected to Prince Harry.
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The death toll has increased to seven in the Malawi elephant relocation project, which is connected to Prince Harry.

Unfortunately, four additional individuals have passed away following the transportation of elephants, which was supervised by two wildlife organizations. This project, which was led by Prince Harry’s organization, took place in a protected region in Malawi. These latest casualties bring the overall death toll associated with the translocated elephants to a total of seven.

In July of 2022, over 250 elephants were transported from Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi to Kasungu, the country’s second-largest protected area, through a collaborative effort between Malawi’s national park service and two non-governmental organizations: the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) and African Parks. Prince Harry served as president of African Parks for six years and was later appointed to the board of directors starting in 2023.

According to conservation groups, the relocation of 263 elephants was one of the largest efforts ever undertaken. Images of the elephants being transported were used for fundraising, and videos of the massive animals being lifted by crane were compared to iconic scenes from the Disney movie Dumbo.

Following the relocation, two individuals were tragically killed by elephants in the new area, and another person was fatally attacked in September of that same year. Local communities have expressed concerns about increasing issues with conflicts between humans and African wildlife, particularly due to crop raids by the mammals.

Following the relocation, a prominent member of the community accused wildlife non-governmental organizations of prioritizing animal welfare over that of humans. The leader mentioned that an electric fence, intended to safeguard individuals living on the outskirts of the park, was not yet finished. This was brought to attention as the elephants had been transferred from a secure area that already had a fence. However, Ifaw and the Malawian national park service dispute this, stating that it was a requirement for the translocation. Additionally, African Parks refuted claims that the movement of the elephants was hastily done.

Unfortunately, four additional individuals have lost their lives due to elephant attacks in Kasungu. This brings the total number of fatalities to seven, as certain sections of the fence remain unfinished. As a result, several children are now without parents and some families are facing financial difficulties, according to reports from the Guardian. In 2023, Ifaw continued to gather donations by sharing updates on the translocation. The NGO believes that their Room to Roam program, which aims to safeguard elephants, is a valuable solution to addressing issues of biodiversity and climate change.

In June 2023, a 31-year-old woman named Masiye Phiri was fatally injured and her two-year-old child was hurt when they were charged by a male elephant in a garden on the Malawian side of the park. This occurred after a group had exited the park boundaries. In August 2023, Jackson Banda was also killed by an elephant after multiple elephants had left the park. The following month, Boniface Nkhoma was attacked by elephants while walking on a road at night, as the animals had once again crossed the park boundaries.

In September 2023, a 65-year-old man named Andrew Phiri was fatally attacked by a bull elephant on the Zambian side. Local sources reported a fifth death, but The Guardian was unable to verify the specifics. Ifaw stated that there have been a total of seven deaths since the elephants were relocated.

Malidadi Langa, the leader of a group representing villages near Kasungu National Park in Malawi, praised the relocation of elephants as a way to enhance tourism. He also urged for the establishment of an insurance program to provide compensation to families impacted by the translocation. Langa emphasized that the conflicts between elephants and humans were particularly detrimental to vulnerable and disadvantaged families.

In retrospect, we acknowledge that there were better ways to prevent and reduce the harmful effects of the elephant-human conflict caused by the translocation. However, our current priority is to come up with effective solutions. Langa expressed this sentiment.

“Although good progress is being made on construction of the electric fence around Kasungu national park, such fencing needs to be embedded in policy and legal frameworks as a requirement, given that Malawi’s protected areas are bounded by dense human settlements.

The speaker stated that they are advocating for the implementation of a human-wildlife conflict insurance program in order to compensate those who have suffered losses. This is due to their previous experience with relocation efforts and the fact that human-wildlife conflict disproportionately affects impoverished and marginalized communities residing in remote areas near the park.

According to Ifaw, it is greatly saddened by the loss of life or harm caused by elephants that have wandered away from Kasungu. The organization collaborates closely with the governments of Malawi and Zambia to address issues of conflict between humans and wildlife, and has been offering assistance to local communities. They also mentioned that 57 miles of fencing around the park has been finished, with plans to complete an additional 25 miles by 2024.

“Ifaw operates within the policy and legal framework of the governments of Malawi and Zambia. It is the government’s responsibility to deal with compensation in such matters, although there exists no such legal provision within the law of the two governments. Ifaw is bound to follow protocol in the management of these areas. However, Ifaw works with the governments to support the families tragically affected by human-elephant conflict by providing logistical and financial support – such as food, transport and coffins for the funerals of the deceased,” it said.

The national park service of Malawi reported a significant decrease in conflict between humans and wildlife in regions where a fence was constructed. They also stated that additional staff had been employed to protect the community from elephant raids. They disagreed with claims that the initial relocation of animals was carried out without regard for the safety and well-being of local communities.

In 2022, African Parks responded extensively to media coverage regarding their involvement with the translocation, which ended last year. However, they did not make a public comment on the matter. It should be noted that the prince was not a part of this particular translocation with African Parks.

The national park service of Zambia did not provide a response.

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Source: theguardian.com