Wa­ter for ele­phants

Malawi is poised to be the next big sa­fari des­ti­na­tion

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - GAVIN BELL

Life and death in the wild can be sud­den and dra­matic. A golden dawn is rising to a cho­rus of bird­song in Malawi’s Li­wonde Na­tional Park as an­telopes graze and but­ter­flies flit among lush grass, while a warthog laps qui­etly at a reedy brook. It is a bu­colic African scene of peace and har­mony. Then all hell breaks loose.

The wa­ter erupts as a pre­his­toric mon­ster rears from the depths, seizes the hog’s head in mas­sive jaws, and drags it squeal­ing and thrash­ing to a wa­tery grave. The real bat­tle be­gins when other croc­o­diles close in to fight for the prize. It lasts for hours as tourists watch from a game lodge me­tres away.

The day af­ter the hog’s demise in Li­wonde, I wit­ness a heavy­weight dis­pute be­tween a hippo and an ele­phant. The hippo is splash­ing about in a river with its pals when a herd of ele­phants lum­bers up to browse on the banks. This an­noys the hippo, which roars from the wa­ter with jaws wide open in a fe­ro­cious dis­play of anger. The near­est ele­phant is unim­pressed. It charges, trunk raised and ears flar­ing, and the hippo re­treats to mid­stream, where it half sub­merges and glares bale­fully at its ad­ver­sary. In na­ture, size mat­ters.

Last week there was an even more dra­matic spec­ta­cle here, as vets in he­li­copters fired tran­quil­liser darts to anaes­thetise hun­dreds of ele­phants, the be­gin­ning of one of the largest an­i­mal translo­ca­tions in his­tory.

From Li­wonde, the ele­phants are be­ing taken by truck to an­other Malaw­ian re­serve as part of a $22 mil­lion re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion project.

Malawi’s pre­mier na­ture re­serve has al­ways had an

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