19 September 2021
TWO ELEPHANTS: ONE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY
Since their mother was killed by poachers, two forest elephants have been on a mammoth West African walkabout, travelling hundreds of miles from Guinea to Liberia.
Born Free partners ELRECO, who work to protect the Critically Endangered forest elephant in Liberia with our support, report two young bull elephants – thought to be brothers – are on the road again. Last year, to the astonishment of local communities, the forest elephants journeyed all the way from Guinea, across Liberia to Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, and have now migrated back to Liberia again.
“The remarkable pair are not what would be considered ‘normal’ wild elephants,” explains Penny Banham, Born Free’s Conservation Projects Officer. “Since they lost their mother to Guinean poachers in 2016, they stay in close proximity to humans and settlements, seemingly somewhat comfortable with the presence of people. It is possible that once their mother was poached, the brothers were lost and started feeling more comfortable around human habitation, than in the forest where they belong. This extraordinary situation makes them extremely vulnerable and an easy target for poachers.”
An Emergency Elephant Committee, including ELRECO and other relevant partners and authorities in the region mobilized rangers to escort and safeguard the elephants as they made their perilous journey. This is not without its challenges; the area the brothers are passing through does not have a natural elephant population and people have become very excited when news spreads of their arrival. The rangers do their best to control crowds that gather around the forest elephants.
Although the elephants in general show a gentle and friendly behaviour, it is still risky as people easily might underestimate the seriousness of the situation. Despite these immense challenges, the enormous efforts of everyone have paid off. These special and unique forest elephants are safe and healthy as they continue their great migration.
“It’s incredible the brothers have journeyed so far,” said Dr Tina Vogt, who co-founded ELRECO in 2017. “We estimate they have travelled at least 560 miles since last year. It has been a big team effort to keep them safe, but their poignant story and perilous journey helps to highlight the plight of this critically endangered species. It is vital we do everything we can to protect these rare elephants and we are grateful to Born Free supporters for all they do to help ELRECO to ensure their future.”