Angola's Quicama Park to Receive 30 South African Elephants

RUSTENBERG, South Africa, September 4, 2000 (ENS) - The North West Parks and Tourism Board is donating 30 elephants to Angola. The Kissama Foundation, mandated by the Angolan government to rehabilitate the country's national parks, will take delivery of the animals at the end of the week.

Two family groups will be captured in South Africa's Madikwe Game Reserve and relocated in the Quicama National Park in Angola.

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Elephant on a road near Madikwe Game Reserve (Photo courtesy Jaci's Safari Lodge
Madikwe itself received its elephants from Zimbabwe and South Africa in the mid-1990s. In all, 225 were relocated from Zimbabew and 25 from South Africa.

The Quicama National Park is situated in the northwestern part of Angola approximately 70 kilometres (43 miles) from Luanda, the capital of Angola. The Atlantic Ocean forms the park's 120 kilometre (75 mile) long western border, while the Cuanza and Longa rivers constitute the northern and southern borders respectively.

Due to Angola's 21 year war and widespread poaching, little is left of the numerous wildlife herds that roamed the park. The remaining number, if any, of elephant, rhino and giant black sable in Angola are unknown. Red buffalo, roan antelope, and eland, bushbuck, and waterbuck antelopes as well as manatees and marine turtles have been sighted in Quicama, but only an intensive game count will provide a reliable estimate of their numbers.

This week's relocation is the first phase of a larger resettlement program of wildlife species over the next five years to Quicama - nicknamed Operation Noahs' Ark. The park of 1.2 million hectares is almost devoid of wildlife.

The Kissama Foundation consulted conservation bodies such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the Elephant Management and Owners Association and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and says it has their support for the project.

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Map of africa showing location of Angola's Quicama National Park (Photo courtesy Kissama Foundation)
The NW Parks and Tourism Board says it has pledged to support the development of the whole of Southern Africa. It sees a duty to support Angola, a country at a turning point in the revitalisation of its economy after the civil war. Angola wants to rejuvenate its economy through conservation based tourism, among other endeavors.

The capture team is headed by a private veterinarian and wildlife specialist, Dr. Kobus du Toit assisted by experienced South African capture and translocation specialists.

The elephants, to be captured on the 8th and 10th of September, will be taken directly to Quicama on two cargo flights from Mafikeng International Airport in the North West Province.

They will be transported in especially designed containers that will secure the adults but allow the young to move freely inside the containers. It will be the first time that family groups will be transported by air.

The elephants will be released into an area of 20,000 hectares in Quicama, secured by an electric fence and trained game guards. The animals will be monitored 24 hours a day by a research team consisting of biologists and radio tracking specialists. Two million rand is earmarked for security.

The Kissama Foundation was founded in 1996 by a group of South Africans and Angolans concerned about the conservation of Angola's natural resources and the state of its national parks. Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is the patron of the Foundation and Professor Wouter van Hoven of the University of Pretoria and the Head of the Angolan Defence Force, General Joao Baptiste de Matos, co-presidents of Kissama.

Researchers from the University of Pretoria's Centre for Wildlife Management participated in formalising a viable ecological management plan for Quicama. A five year development plan for the park has now been finalised.

The entire project is sponsored by Angolan and South African businesses.

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Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (Photo courtesy Kissama Foundation)
After warring parties signed a fragile peace accord in 1997, Angola has been trying to rebuild its shattered economy.

Angolaís mineral and human wealth has the potential to eradicate poverty in a relatively short time, make it a prosperous country and promote the well being of all its people, given the political will to make peace a reality, Ibrahim Gambari, under-secretary-general and special adviser on Africa, told the United Nations Security Council July 27 during its open meeting on Angola.

For that reason, he said, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' indication of willingness to pardon Jonas Savimbi, leader of the rebel Uniao Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA), and his followers was a welcome development.

The rebel groupís failure to live up to peace agreements was primarily responsible for the renewed violence and continuation of Angola's civil war, Gambari said.

Albino Malungo, Angola's minister for social assistance, told the Security Council that now, after the government put down a UNITA uprising in 1998, more than 92 percent of Angolan territory is under the control of legal authorities.

To give peace a chance will require increased efforts in the political, social and economic spheres, as well as a spirit of reconciliation by all Angolans, said Gambari.

Regardless of continuing civil strife, Angola has its sights set on attracting tourists. A comfortable tourist lodge is planned for wildlife viewing in Quicama National Park, the Kissama Foundation says.