International Fund for Animal Welfare Transports Elephants in Africa

First Posted: Feb 01, 2014 01:29 PM EST

Due to the increasing conflict between elephants and villagers in the town of Daloa, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was tasked with the mission of transporting a rare subspecies of elephants across the Ivory Coast to improve their safety as well as the safety of local villagers.

The IFAW began the operation with a total of six elephants. Of the six African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) that were transported, two died during the trip. Such a loss is considered unfortunate, but it's not surprising given the circumstances of such a risky operation.

The African forest elephant is one of the rarest subspecies on the African continent, with an estimated 60,000 to 150,000 remaining in the world, according to Cornell University.

"Translocating elephants [as a] solution is only used as last resort--the operation is risky and very expensive," said Celine Sissler-Bienvenu, a director at the IFAW, in this National Geographic article. "Instead of killing these elephants, which are the country's national emblem, they wanted to find a humane solution, and knew we had moved elephants in Malawi before."

The deforestation that has been taking place in Daloa has increased the conflict between villagers and the elephants. As a result, many elephants were deprived of a home and malnourished due to the lack of a natural environment. The roaming elephants became a safety issue for the villagers in surrounding areas. Three people were stomped to death and local crops were devoured.

The increased conflict led the Ivory Coast government to intervene in 2012. They asked the IFAW to help remedy the situation. The elephants were tranquilized and transported in trucks to Asagny National Park - a wildlife reserve 310 miles away.

Six more elephants still remain in Daloa, and if they begin to cause further conflict with the villagers, the IFAW will have to step in again.

To read more about elephant transportation, visit this National Geographic article.

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