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Kenyan Wildlife Service Launches Massive Operation To Move Elephants

It's the world's biggest relocation effort of large mammals. So big, that conservationists have dubbed it "Noah's Ark Two." It's Kenya's massive operation to move its gigantic elephants from their overcrowded reserve to a less populated area. As VOA's Crystal Park reports, it's going to take a lot of work.

Kenya's vast Shimba Hills reserve is teeming with elephants. So much so, that the Kenyan Wildlife Service has launched a massive operation to move the huge mammals to less-crowded areas.

The elephants have caused problems for local farmers who complain they are destroying all their crops. Shimba Hills can hold about 200 elephants. Right now, there are 600.

Patrick Omondi, coordinator for the Kenya Wildlife Service describes the move. "This relocation is special because this is one of the largest operations that has been done all over the world. We are moving 400 elephants to northern Tsavo at one operation."

In Kenya, it is illegal to hunt wildlife or thin herds by killing animals. The operation, which is funded by the government, requires wildlife officials to use tranquilizers to immobilize the huge animals, then transport them on special trucks.

A mature elephant weighs around four tons. It is an eight-hour drive up to Tsavo East National Park. Officials plan on transporting the elephants by families since they are social mammals with strong ties to kin.

Michelle Pickover is an animal rights campaigner says, "They're very much like us, they mourn their dead, they stick together. Their whole lives are very much like human beings, so we can relate to them."

Elephant groups are led by older females and some of them have been given radio collars so they can be tracked down.

Omandi says this relocation is planned to ease pressure on the habitat, enhance biodiversity and reduce the human-elephant conflicts that have risen dramatically in recent years. Villagers at Shimba Hills have mixed feelings about the relocation. They love the animals, but they don't want their crops destroyed.