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500 Elephants Moving To Repopulate Area Where Species Was Wiped Out

African elephants at a preserve in Malawi were decimated by poachers.
A herd of elephants gather at a watering hole in Hwange National Park October 14, 2014. The watering hole was one of several
A herd of elephants gather at a watering hole in Hwange National Park October 14, 2014. The watering hole was one of several that were contaminated by poachers with cyanide in 2013, leading to the death of at least 100 animals, according to Zimbabwean authorities. Picture taken October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo (ZIMBABWE - Tags: ANIMALS CRIME LAW)

Transporting an elephant takes a ton of effort. 

Conservationists are attempting to move 500 African elephants from two national parks in Malawi to a wildlife preserve where poachers had previously wiped out the species, the Associated Press reported. 

The elephants are going from two national parks in Majete and Liwonde, where there are a surplus of elephants, to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. The goal is to repopulate the area with the threatened species and repeat the process in other locations once it’s complete. 

Despite a ban on internal trade of ivory, African elephants are poached in large numbers, according to The World Wildlife Fund. It is driven mostly by demand in Asian countries, like China, where ivory is carved into jewelry and ornaments.

In this Tuesday July 12, 2016 photo, an elephant is lifted by a crane in an upside down position in Lilongwe, Malawi, in the
In this Tuesday July 12, 2016 photo, an elephant is lifted by a crane in an upside down position in Lilongwe, Malawi, in the first step of an assisted migration of 500 of the threatened species. African Parks, which manages three Malawian reserves is moving the 500 elephants from Liwonde National Park, this month and next, and again next year when vehicles can maneuver on the rugged terrain during Southern Africa's dry winter. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

But moving the massive animals, which can weigh anywhere between 5,000 to 14,000 pounds, is no small feat.

An elephant is shot with a dart from a helicopter in Lilongwe, Malawi, in the first step of an assisted migration of 500 of t
An elephant is shot with a dart from a helicopter in Lilongwe, Malawi, in the first step of an assisted migration of 500 of the threatened species.

In order to gather the animals, a vet flies overhead in a helicopter and shoots the roaming elephants with darts, which contain a sedative. 

Elephants lay on a riverside plain in Lilongwe, Malawi, after being immobilized by darts fired from a helicopter.
Elephants lay on a riverside plain in Lilongwe, Malawi, after being immobilized by darts fired from a helicopter.

A vet examines the elephant once it’s sedated and fits it with a tracking collar. The elephant is then hoisted upside down by a crane onto a truck.

Elephants are later given an injection in a crate that wakes them up and are then herded into a transport container in order to begin their 185 mile-long journey to their new home in Nkhotakota.

“This is very much the way that we’ll have to manage things in the future,” Reid told the AP.

An elephant is measured after being shot by a dart on July 12. 
An elephant is measured after being shot by a dart on July 12. 

Though the process may seem stressful for a wild animal, it has been shortened and refined over the years, according to conservationists, and the commercial wildlife industry. The Telegraph also reports that families of elephants are kept together.

Elephants lay immobilized in a truck in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Elephants lay immobilized in a truck in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Once they reach the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, they’ll get more space and security.

Fifteen tons of elephant tusks were were set on fire, during an anti-poaching ceremony at Nairobi National Park in Nairobi, K
Fifteen tons of elephant tusks were were set on fire, during an anti-poaching ceremony at Nairobi National Park in Nairobi, Kenya on March 3, 2015. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta set fire to the elephant ivory during World Wildlife Day to discourage poaching.

The conservations hope the protected elephants at Nkhotakota can help create a thriving population that can later be moved to other parts of Africa where the population is suffering.

Elephants play.
Elephants play.

“I see it as something that’s here to stay,”George Wittemyer, an African elephant expert, told the AP, “for better or worse.”

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