A Mammoth Rescue Mission: Rare Forest Elephants Saved From Death
By Dan BloomPublished: January 20, 2014
A mammoth rescue mission: Rare forest elephants saved from death at the hands of farmers after they trampled their crops.
- Animals forced out by logging have clashed with farmers in Ivory Coast
- Now they have been rescued by the International Fund for Animal Welfare
- Experts had to hack through jungle with chainsaws and avoid being gored
- There are only about 100,000 forest elephants left in the wild
Tranquilized, strapped down and shut inside reinforced trucks, a group of rare elephants has been saved from what campaigners say would be certain death.
The endangered African forest elephants had torn up farms and crops in villages in Ivory Coast, triggering fears that farmers would shoot them.
So an animal rights charity has saved the creatures the only way possible - by driving them 250 miles away to a national park.
The mission by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was no easy task, as the dense forests of the elephants' habitat made them almost impossible to track.
Just 100,000 or so of the creatures are left in the wild after logging and mining forced them from their habitats and into conflict with farmers.
Unlike larger savannah elephants, they live only in the jungles of central and western Africa, torn up by wars and heavy industry.
Despite weighing up to five tonnes they are not even safe in national parks, as poachers seize on the booming trade of illegal ivory to countries like China.
To save the elephants yesterday experts tracked them through jungle near the town of Daloa, then shot them with tranquiliser darts.
Rescue mission: The charity hopes to save about a dozen elephants in total which have settled near Daloa
They had to bring chainsaws and pickaxes to hack through the trees - and two litres of washing-up liquid to slide the sleeping elephants onto a trailer.
Then there was the huge crane which lifted the beasts onto a car recovery truck.
Team member Dr Andre Uys said: 'There's no way we can perform a traditional elephant caputre here like we do in the savannah.
Mission: Usually the rescuers use helicopters, but were thwarted by the dense African jungle
'The primary forest canopy is 60 metres high. It makes it impossible to operate with the helicopter. It's going to be a mammoth task.
His colleague Neil Greenwood added: 'You are dealing with a dangerous animal. Those elephants are silent and you can literally take a corner and walk into one of those and that's where injuries and deaths will occur from.'
In all the charity hopes to rescue about a dozen elephants, which experts will rehome in the Azagny National Park and fit with GPS collars to track their movements.
The Ivory Coast government pleaded for the charity's help to avoid the elephants being killed.
IFAW director Céline Sissler-Bienvenu said: 'The elephant is the national emblem of Côte d'Ivoire. This is why, at the request of the Ivorian authorities, the villagers have shown patience so that a humane alternative to culling could be found.
'Having examined all of the available solutions, we proposed this last resort to move the elephants to safety.'
'If we are to save these endangered elephants, we have to act now, during the dry season. This jumbo rescue mission resolves a major conservation problem and contributes to the safety and well-being of both animals and people.'
The number of forest elephants is impossible to determine exactly because the creatures are so reclusive. Instead scientists have to count the amount of dung in each area.
It is not the first time the charity has run a jumbo evacuation, however.
In 2009, IFAW evacuated 83 savannah elephants which were caught in deadly human-elephant conflict in Malawi.
You can donate towards the mission here.