Save the 27 CAMPAIGN

911 Elephant – Elephant Emergency Intervention


Elephants, Rhinos & People ( recently received reports of two elephant bulls in Mozambique that are in an unprotected area that are populated by rural farmers and villages. This is a potentially explosive situation, as elephants and humans clash leading to tragedies on both sides. Just two months ago, two other elephants in Mozambique attacked and killed a woman and both elephants were shot (article). When ERP went to investigate we found not two, but seventeen elephants in this area with reports of ten more in the vicinity. As winter time approaches, these elephants are more likely to wander into areas with crops, endangering the lives of elephants and people. The family of elephants we found also has babies and a tusker, putting them at especially high risk.

Working for Elephants, Rhinos & People ( in the background, from my home in the US, I rarely get the opportunity to be on ground during ERP field projects. As I was already in South Africa last week, I got to join an unforgettable 911 Elephant project that started at 4 a.m. on March 26, 2018. What would’ve been a small tracking project, turned out to be the beginning of a big rescue operation of at least 17 elephants, but we estimate probably closer to 30.
— Jan van Rensburg, Director, ERP USA - March 26, 2018



Elephants, Rhinos & People ( recently received reports of two elephant bulls in Mozambique that are in an unprotected area. These bulls have wandered into areas close to human villages and are in imminent danger of being labeled 'problem animals'. Once these animals have been 'labeled', it is only a matter of time until culling permits will be issued for them. This same type of situation ended tragically less than 2 months ago in Mozambique.

This is a typical case of human/elephant conflict, where the subsistence farmers try to protect their crops from these elephants. In the worst of these cases, elephants attack people or farmers and villagers kill the elephants in a dire last-ditch attempt to save their livelihood and their family's food.  One can hardly blame them.

911 Elephant was born out of situations like these, where a decisive and urgent intervention is required to save an elephant's life. 

We knew the two bulls were in danger since one of them (called "Tag") have been fitted with a GPS collar (for monitoring and tracking purposes), and it was clear that one of the bulls had wandered into an area close to community villages. The bull was last known to travel near his mate (called "Along") and therefore our mission was to find Along, the second elephant, so that we can capture and relocate them to a safer area in the near future.

Elephants, Rhinos & People ( received a briefing on the operation from Jaoa Almeida a wildlife veterinarian based in the Greater Lebombo Conservancy. After the briefing we proceeded to the grass landing strip, where pilot and conservationist Richard Fair took us to the air in his 4-seater Piper Tri-Pacer to the GPS location* last broadcasted by Tag’s collar.

  This picture shows the problem of farming and wilderness intersecting

This picture shows the problem of farming and wilderness intersecting

  Jaoa and Richard Planning the Operation

Jaoa and Richard Planning the Operation

  Richard, Tuan (from ERP) and Jaoa, ready to take off

Richard, Tuan (from ERP) and Jaoa, ready to take off

We couldn’t locate the Tag or Along at the last know GPS location and started a grid search to locate them. After about 10 minutes of searching, we saw a huge bull with impressive tusks looking at us from below and due to his tusk size called him Stud. Since this was not one of the original bulls we were looking to locate, we continued our search, knowing that we now had to relocate three elephants.


Stud from the air. He might be difficult to spot from a cellphone camera taken from the air, but he is an impressive creature. 

None of us expected what we saw next.  A family of 16 elephants, including 3 small babies. It was a majestic sight, especially from the air. 

We realized, however, that we suddenly had a much bigger rescue operation on our hands than we planned for.  One big tusker and a family with babies are incredibly vulnerable in this area and will need to be relocated as soon as possible to get them out of harm’s way, especially so close to winter.
— Jan van Rensburg, Director, ERP USA - March 26, 2018


Family of another 17 elephants, including three babies which are almost to small to see on this video. 

In the end, we did not locate the original elephants that we were looking for, and we’ve had reports of another group of 8 elephants not too far from this area. The ERP team and our partners on the ground are feverishly preparing for what will become the biggest 911 Elephant rescue operation to date

ERP has to secure all the necessary permitting and cooperation of the relevant authorities. We also must get the right equipment and team into this challenging area to move the 27 elephants to a safe location. In the meantime, our aim is to get some boots on the ground to keep track of where the elephants are, and to alert us if they are in imminent danger.  We will also be heading back as soon as we have a permit to collar one of the females in the family of 16, so that we can keep track of the herd’s movement. This will make it easier to locate them once we’re ready for the relocation operation

*For their safety, the location of the elephants is not revealed until they’re safely rescued.