Working in a wilderness area has a great deal of interesting challenges that require creativity to solve. Here in Zinave National Park, the team had to put their heads together to figure out how to outsmart the curious elephants who were destroying the park signs.
Zinave’s Project Manager, Bernard van Lente, explains that the elephants did not quite agree with the aesthetics of new road signage erected on poles in the ground. After about two short weeks of these reflective signs being in place, the elephants managed to pull them all out and carry them some distance into the field, leaving Bernard and his team cleaning up a tangled mess of mangled metal. The simple yet clever solution of mounting the signs on large, old logs lying around has proven to be a more resilient solution. It seems that using natural materials as part of the decoration has stumped the elephants too.
With more than 200 tree and over 40 grass species, Zinave National Park offers excellent wildlife habitat that can easily support large mammals such as elephant and the emblematic giraffe. Unfortunately, due to prolonged conflict in the region, many of the wildlife numbers struggled to recover until Peace Parks Foundation and Mozambique focused their efforts on conservation and protection plans that oversaw many animals, such as antelope, buffalo, zebra, giraffe and elephant to name a few, being rewilded back into this incredible environment.
Elephants are extremely important to the health of the ecosystem. They open up new areas of the landscape through their widespread movement and feeding habits, which allows for new grasses to grow, much to the delight of the grazers in the area. Their dung also play a vital role in shaping and structuring the ecosystem, because with their poor digestive system, their nutrient-rich droppings contain many intact seeds which are distributed throughout the landscape . This, of course,then attracts all sorts of insects, which serves as a food source for birds that are returning to the landscape. Birds attract small predators and snakes, which in turn attract bigger birds of prey – and on it goes until the whole system is once again healthy and functional.
You can learn more about the benefits of elephant dung here.
With a healthy population of 223 elephants now reintroduced into Zinave, it seems as though they have settled in extremely well to their new environment. With several baby elephants already having been born in the park, the population is on the rise. With the new tourism development plans underway, it won’t be long until visitors can enjoy seeing these gentle but curious elephants for themselves.