REIMS, France, Jan. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- About a dozen extremely rare forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) threatened with certain death will be evacuated to a protected area this month in the West African country of Côte d'Ivoire. The Ivorian government called on IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) to find a viable solution to escalating human-elephant conflict in the region.
IFAW's team will herd, dart, capture and truck the elephants about 400km (250 miles) to the protected area of Azagny National Park. The large scale operation will begin on January 19 and continue through the end of the month. Three elephants will be equipped with GPS collars to track movement and monitor their progress for up to two years.
Côte d'Ivoire is home to some of the last forest elephants, which only live in a handful of countries in West and Central Africa. For this reason every individual animal is integral for the survival of the entire population.
Two years ago, habitat encroachment forced the few remaining elephant residents out of Marahoué National Park. The three elephant families had nowhere else to go and settled in small pockets of forest on the outskirts of the city of Daloa. The area provides insufficient space for their habitat and now they are inadvertently in conflict with local farmers – raiding crops, destroying property and encroaching on the town. Pressure is mounting and if the elephants stay, the villagers will retaliate and eventually kill them.
"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," said Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, IFAW Director for France and Francophone Africa. "Having examined all of the available solutions, we proposed this last resort to move the elephants to safety."
"The very survival of forest elephants relies on actions of this scale that focus on protection and conservation in order to maintain the balance of our forest ecosystem and to educate future generations," said Mr. Mathieu Babaud Darret, Ivorian Minister of Water and Forests.
"The Ministry of Environment, Urban Hygiene and Sustainable Development is fully engaged in the relocation operations of Daloa's elephants to Azagny National Park. By engaging in these operations, we are contributing to the protection of this emblematic species for future generations whose world we are merely borrowing" declared Ivorian Minister, Dr. Rémi Allah-Kouadio.
"If we are to save these endangered elephants, we have to act now, during the dry season," said Céline Sissler-Bienvenu. "This jumbo rescue mission resolves a major conservation problem and contributes to the safety and well-being of both animals and people."
In 2009, IFAW successfully carried out a mammoth evacuation of 83 savannah elephants caught in deadly human-elephant conflict in Malawi.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare