This is a highly precarious and risky operation. To dart and capture the unpredictable African buffalo requires a team of experts. Brian Neubert from Peace Parks is supported by veterinarians from Mozambique Wildlife Alliance, Dr Carlos Pereira – Head of Anti-poaching at Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) and others as they work as a team to quickly locate the buffalo in the bush.
What you are watching is science-led conservation in practice. By using collars already fitted on the buffalo, the team can track their position quite easily. Once the buffalo are moved into their new home, the same collar will provide data on the location, behaviour and movement patterns of the animals. This can help map their migration routes and enable more strategic anti-poaching efforts to be put in place as well as reducing conflict between humans and wildlife.
Once the buffalo are darted from the helicopter above, it all happens very quickly. Machetes and chainsaws are used to clear a path through the thick thorny bush so that the waiting vehicles can drive up close to each buffalo. The buffalo are stabilised and a covering put over their eyes to reduce their stress levels. The vet checks each of them over, taking any samples required and ensuring that each animal is fit to continue to journey. As these enormous animals are extremely heavy, it takes many hands to shift them onto a pallet and up on to the waiting vehicles. Always mindful of the animals’ well-being during a translocation, people travel alongside the buffalo to ensure their safety.
The next step is to take the buffalo to their new home, Maputo Special Reserve, where they will be released into the wild and have plenty of room to roam and thrive.
Maputo Special Reserve lies within the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation and Resource Area which stretches across the borders of Mozambique, South Africa and the Kingdom of eSwatini. The reserve was proclaimed a protected area in 1932 with the primary aim of safeguarding coastal elephants. Although several years of difficult conditions nearly eradicated all wildlife here, the combined efforts of the Government of Mozambique, Peace Parks Foundation and many dedicated donors and partners, have seen the reserve’s animal populations revitalised.
Tune in to peaceparksTV.com tomorrow to see what happens next.