Sometimes destruction can be a good thing. To demonstrate our point, let’s take a look inside the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where a herd of around 580 African elephants have entered from neighboring land, tearing through trees and knocking down bushes along the way.
Along with the 120 elephants already living inside the park, the elephants have left behind a trail of natural destruction, which is exactly what conservationists were hoping for. But why?
What the elephants are doing is destroying invasive growth, giving room for grazing animals and wild species such as buffaloes and warthogs to return to the park after a decades-long hiatus. With their return, even more, invasive plants will be eaten and dead plant material removed, thus allowing the Virunga National Park to transform back to a grassland savanna-like it used to be.
At a time where biodiversity is shrinking in many parts of the world, the return of elephants and other grazing animals to the park is a blessing. Studies have found that well-managed grazing results in the highest species diversity, and can promote healthy soil in a region.
“What this shows is that, even in incredibly challenging environments and an area that has been beset by conflict for the last few decades, through the hard work and commitment of the Virunga Rangers, it is possible to create the conditions to restore and promote the return of species and protect biodiversity more broadly,” said Joel Wengamulay, the Virunga director of external affairs.
Although efforts from the Virunga rangers to bring peace to the area has given nature the chance to restore itself, the sudden appearance of a giant herd of elephants wasn’t planned. They simply crossed into the park from neighboring Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park this summer and haven’t left since.
“This is a really incredible example of rewilding our planet by giving nature a bit of help and then letting the elephants, in this case, take care of the rest,” said Wes Sechrest, CEO and chief scientist at Global Wildlife Conservation.”
The return of elephants has given hope to staff members of the park, which has long been besieged by conflict. Moving forward, the group is making arrangements to make sure poachers and armed members of the militia are kept away from the precious elephants.