When the Madikwe Game Reserve was established in South Africa it precipitated Operation Phoenix, the largest trans-location of wildlife by humans on earth, a feat that still holds the record today.
Southern Africa has had its fair share of dramatic animal translocations, from the rescuing of thousands of animals
from the rising waters of Lake Kariba on the Zambezi River to the translocation of animals into Pilanesberg National Park in the 1980's. The stocking of the newly formed Pilanesberg Game Reserve was at the time the world's largest movement of animals by humans.
The rescuing of the animals from Lake Kariba took place after completion of the dam wall, when the area began to fill up with water
and hills became islands and trees the last refuges for wildlife. An operation dubbed Operation Noah was started to save as many animals from drowning as possible.
From Operation Genesis to Phoenix
When the Pilanesberg Game Reserve was set up near Sun City the authorities brought in thousands of animals from around the country to stock the park, and at the time the operation was the largest trans-location
of wild animals in the world.
Today, however, the translocation programme to stock the Madikwe Game Reserve in the Northwest Province of South Africa with wildlife, known as Operation Phoenix, is the largest movement of wildlife ever undertaken by man.
Over a period of seven years more than 8000 animals
, including the Big Five, were re-introduced onto the once devastated land for the purpose of establishing an economically viable wildlife sanctuary for the benefit of local communities in the area.
So successful was Operation phoenix that the park authorities are now able to donate and sell wildlife to other parks and reserves around southern Africa. In fact Madikwe has the second largest elephant population
in South Africa after Kruger Park and the Wild Dog breeding programme in Madikwe is world renowned.
Beyond Operation Phoenix
Today there is a new vision of co-operation between conservation bodies in Africa and the sharing of ideas and wildlife
is commonplace. Where once parks that had an oversupply of wildlife simply culled the excess, today it is trans-located to parks that have suffered from poaching and mismanagement in the past.
The trans-location of wildlife around Africa today is easier than it once was, due in no small part to the experience gained in the mammoth operation to restock Madikwe Game Reserve.
Visitors to Madikwe today see a park that seems to have existed for centuries but in reality it came into existence through man's dedication, a small positive in today's world of materialism and human destruction of the environment.