The Knysna Elephant Park’s (KEP) history will record July 11 2016 as a momentous day!
Harry, the Park’s much loved, dominant bull, led his family to their new home at the nearby Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve.
This relocation is the newest, exciting chapter in a story that began more than three years ago…
In 2013, four elephants were part of a herd living on a private hunting farm that was closing down. The elephants, now named Mpho, Lundi, Kito and Ntombi, were 1-3 years old. Their mothers, exposed to many years of trauma through hunting, were seen to be too dangerous to relocate to another area. But what of their babies…could they not be saved?
The authorities agreed that if a suitable home could be found, the babies might be saved. The Knysna Elephant Park (KEP) offered these youngsters sanctuary and were given permits for their transfer.
The long-term objective was for them to remain together in a free-range environment and to be returned to a habitat as similar as possible to the home they had come from.
First, a surrogate family had to be found. To release these immature and naïve youngsters, alone, back into the wild, would have meant certain death.
KEP knew that retired bulls from the Park, Harry, Namib and Gambo, together with bonded female Tosha, would give the four calves the support, guidance and leadership that they needed. They would allow the youngsters to rebuild the social bonds that are so vital in elephant herds.
Add to the group, a small calf named Tembi (born to Tosha and Harry in May 2013), and the perfect family was formed.
On Monday last week, the next step of their journey was completed.
ELEPHANTS SUCCESSFULLY RELOCATED
The bonded herd was successfully relocated to the nearby Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve, a privately owned reserve that offers more than 3000 hectares to the small family of elephants; and the ‘wild’ home that was promised to the four young orphans.
This relocation represents the realisation of the goal that the Park had committed to three years ago. Additionally, management is still able to observe the welfare, condition and progress of the animals under their care.
The KEP team were assisted by local wildlife vet, Brendon Tindall, and professional game transport company, Mpatamatcha. At dawn, the elephants were safely loaded and transferred to their new home. The bulls went first, followed by Tosha and the babies.
Representatives from Cape Nature were waiting at the release camp. This camp had been prepared especially for the herd; complete with heated shelter, mud wallow and drinking hole. Within minutes of being offloaded, the elephants were gathered together, calmly grazing…together and safe.
Over the next few days, they will remain in the release camp, so as to become more familiar with their new surroundings. Soon, they will venture out, guided by their trusted handlers, who have moved with them to their new home. The handlers will also be responsible for supplementary feeding and veterinary monitoring, when needed.
The elephants will only be viewed during game drives. No human interactions will take place.
The African Elephant Research Unit (AERU), KEP’s on-site research unit, has been monitoring these elephants since their arrival at KEP and will continue to do so at Plett Game Reserve. Records of behaviour and interactions will be used to monitor the progress of their relocation and assess the impact of their introduction to the reserve. CCTV cameras, fitted in the release camp, will monitor night-time behaviour, allowing AERU to keep a close eye on their well-being.
KNYSNA ELEPHANT PARK
The Knysna Elephant Park has been operating for more than two decades. Over the years, more than 40 elephants have been rescued and/or relocated by the Park. And, although they are now homed beyond the borders of the Park, many of these elephants remain part of the KEP family, just as the new Plett Game Reserve herd will do.
This relocation is among other transfers of captive elephants into more free-range environments. It will not be the last as the Knysna Elephant Park maintains its primary objective: To offer elephants in need a better home.
Press release issued by the Knysna Elephant Park.