More than 2 000 animals from KwaZulu-Natal and Swaziland are on the move in a major wildlife shifting operation – to boost tourism in a depleted game reserve near the Mozambique capital, Maputo.
Over the last six years, about 1 700 animals have been moved to the Maputo Special Elephant Reserve – once home to large groups of elephant, rhino and antelope.
This year, another 2 700 animals – mostly antelope species – are being moved from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Swaziland game parks to the Maputo reserve, with financial support from the World Bank and the Stellenbosch-based Peace Parks Foundation.
A massive 3km-long suspension bridge from Maputo to Catembe and a 209km tar road from Maputo to Ponta do Ouro is currently under construction by the Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation at a cost of $725m.
“Maputo Special Reserve and the Ponta do Ouro marine reserve are set to become major tourist destinations thanks to the new tarred road and bridge that will cut travel time from Maputo to the reserves to just 45 minutes,” said Peace Parks Foundation chief executive Werner Myburgh.
Mozambican conservation agency director-general Bartolomeu Soto said the translocation would provide a significant boost to the trans-frontier conservation links between SA, Swaziland and Mozambique.
A recent survey suggests there are now more than 6 200 herbivore species in the Maputo Special Reserve.
Apart bringing in giraffe, waterbuck, kudu, nyala, zebra, wildebeest and waterbuck from KZN, Swaziland and Mozambique’s Gorongosa Reserve, Myburgh said there were also plans to bring buffalo from Namibia.
“By adding another 2 300 animals this year, it will completely transform the Maputo reserve into a sought-after wildlife destination. The next step will be to start investing into more tourism accommodation and infrastructure,” the foundation said.
The scenic Maputo reserve has numerous inland lakes and large open plains, close to the specially-protected Ponta do Ouro marine reserve popular with divers.