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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - October 12, 2001: Elephant Relocation - 2001-10-11

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

South Africa has begun an effort to move one-thousand elephants to nearby Mozambique. The operation is designed to reduce the elephant population in South Africa’s famous Kruger National Park.

Kruger is home to many different kinds of wildlife, including rhinos, buffalo, lions and leopards. It also has about nine-thousand elephants. Before the relocation plan, environmental officials had considered killing the elephants to reduce the population. However, they feared opposition by animal protection groups.

The move is part of a plan to create a huge wildlife park without borders. The park will include Kruger National Park, a similar area in Mozambique and Gonarezhou Park in Zimbabwe. The three countries signed an international agreement last year to create the wildlife park. It will be the first wildlife park to be established in three countries.

A South African environmental official said the park is the most important animal protection project in the world today. Officials say the park will be a reality when there is free movement of visitors and animals across the borders.

The park has been named the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. It will be one of the world’s largest protected areas for wildlife. It will cover thirty-five-thousand square kilometers of land. It is expected to have many visitors when it opens next year.

Officials say it will take about three years to move the elephants. Most of the elephant population in Mozambique was destroyed during a civil war in the country that ended in Nineteen-Ninety-Two. Mozambique once had one of the world’s fastest growing economies. However, it suffered terrible floods last year. It remains one of the world’s poorest countries.

South African officials say the new wildlife park will help the economy of Mozambique by providing jobs for people living in or near the park. They say it will also end barriers that will give the animals more freedom of movement.

Last week, the first group of elephants was moved to the Mozambican side of the park during a ceremony led by former South African President Nelson Mandela. Mister Mandela opened the gate on the border between the two countries, giving the elephants free passage. Mister Mandela said the park project is also an example of how to improve relations among nations.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.