At the tip of the San Sebastian Peninsula on the Indian Ocean coastline of Mozambique, lies a large, fully protected coastal habitat, home to a wide diversity of both marine and terrestrial species. Thanks to good conservation management, Santuario Bravio de Vilanculos, otherwise known as the Vilanculos Coastal Wildlife Sanctuary, is seeing growing populations of many large mammals, including the eland. With the eland population now in surplus, a herd of 95 of Africa’s second largest antelope are being translocated from The Sanctuary to both Zinave and Maputo national parks.

Peace Parks Foundation, alongside Mozambique’s National Administration For Conservation Areas (ANAC), has signed a long-term co-management agreement which has seen Zinave, a once eerily quiet and desolate place, become one of the country’s flagship national parks. Alongside the intense landscape restoration programmes in place, the park has also undergone some major infrastructure developments, which will help to boost tourism in the area. To date, more than 5 000 animals roam this now safe haven, with over 15 species being rewilded here. As very few records exist of eland having been seen in Zinave over the last few decades, this antelope will now be the 16th species reintroduced into the sanctuary.

With the expertise of translocation logistics service provider, Conservation Solutions, at the helm of the operation, a total of 95 eland were successfully captured for transport. Still, as with any large-scale translocation, an entire team effort is required. The Sanctuary’s General Manager, Dave Gilroy, explains how the capture operation unfolded. The capture boma, a temporary cone-like structure, is first set up to help herd the eland into specially designed translocation crates which will keep them safe while on the road.

Why Are Eland Important?

Following on from the recent successes of both the white and black rhino translocations, the return of eland to Zinave is a part of the next phase of a long-term rewilding programme aimed at restoring the park’s biodiversity. These eland will be a part of a founder population which will help to repopulate the entire park.

What makes these spiral-horned antelope so unique is the fact that they are both grazers and browsers. Their consumption of plants and grasses within an environment helps keep the physical and biological aspects of an ecosystem in check. This is done by promoting new plant growth as well as enriching the soil as they feed. Not only this, but this introduction of eland will help to re-establish the slowly growing predator population, including lion, leopard and hyena.

Stay tuned to Peace Parks TV this week as we go behind-the-scenes of this translocation operation.