Prince Harry hails 'amazing' experience moving elephants across Malawi


Prince Harry has described the experience of moving herds of African elephants hundreds of miles to a safer home as "amazing".

During the summer Harry joined conservationists working in Malawai on the ambitious 500 Elephants project to transport the creatures from an overstocked area to another with less human-wildlife conflict and more food and resources.

Photographs and a video have been released showing the Prince working over three weeks helping to catch anaesthetised elephants and load them on to trucks or into trailers.

In one comic image Harry is pictured with eight others hanging on to a rope tied around the leg of a darted bull male trying to escape.

The project is being organised by African Parks, a conservation NGO that manages protected areas and national parks on behalf of governments, which released the video.

In the footage, Harry says: "They need to be moved to another place and this is the most efficient and least invasive way of being able to do it. I can tell you after three weeks there is zero stress on these animals and they're going from one beautiful place to another beautiful place.''

The animals are being moved 200 miles (322km) across Malawi from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, where the elephants will be able to thrive.

The Prince helped with the first phase of the translocation when 261 elephants were successfully re-homed. The remaining 239 elephants will be moved during the second phase next summer.

In another photograph he is seen marking a captured young male, with removable spray paint, so that he can be identifiable when the family group is released back into the bush.

As scenes of elephants wandering free are shown in the video, Harry says: ''Elephants - that's one of the cores of Africa, you can't imagine anywhere like this existing without elephants.

''People can connect with them but one of the fears (is the) overcrowding of elephants and wondering where we are going to put all of these animals.

''In some countries the numbers are dropping unbelievably quickly, in other countries you've got almost too many - there's this weird imbalance.''

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve supported more than 1,500 elephants 20 years ago but, due to rampant poaching, numbers have dwindled to 100 before the start of the translocation.

When images are screened of animals being driven away on the backs of flatbed lorries, Harry adds: ''It's amazing to see such unbelievable creatures being moved in a way you could never even dream of.''

In another sequence, the Prince, wearing a cap, khaki shirt with the sleeves rolled up and jeans, puts a strap around an elephant's leg and later he is seen helping to guide an anaesthetised animal to the ground with others and then stroking a sedated elephant on a lorry.

He adds: ''To be with elephants - such a massive beast - is a unique experience.''

The conservation organisation WWF says on its website that despite a ban on the international trade in ivory, African elephants are still being poached in large numbers.

There are around 415,000 elephants on the continent, down from a population of between three million and five million in the early 20th century.