Images of elephant have stayed with me since my post of last week and sparked by Buzzerbeezz, who highlighted a wildlife sanctuary for orangutans, i’d like to pay tribute to these regal creatures and the conservation work of the Addo Elephant Park.
On this particular visit there had been a lack of rain and the herds congregated around the water holes. As each group made it’s way toward water there was an expectant air of reunion and revelry, which made for some interesting viewing. I was struck by the greetings between the family units, but as always it was the boisterous youngsters with their rough and tumble who stole the show. Well, and as for the littlest…. . he was having problems with his trunk (take a look at the picture where he loses patience and just slings it about)! With over 50 000 muscles to co-ordinate it takes some practice.
The heart of the Park is located in the Sundays River Valley where i still have family ties. I recall family outings there as a child when the park had a small herd of ‘problem’ elephant with a deep distrust of people. In those days visitors viewed the animals from safe vantage points through a specially engineered fence. To heighten the chances of seeing them the local farming cooperative supplied castoff oranges which were put out in allocated ‘feeding’ areas. As the elephant came to trust people gradual changes were made. Tentative measures such as allowing visitors in their cars into certain areas habituated the animals to accepting vehicles as being non-threatening. Over time a forward thinking conservation ethos allowed for the introduction of a wider selection of species and an expanded conservancy area. Today the park boasts the attraction of the big “seven” (elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, southern right whale and great white shark) and stretches well over 180 000 hectares encompassing a range of ecosystems, including the coastal water s and two islands. It provides sanctuary to over 600 elephant, which considering there were only sixteen elephant when it was first proclaimed a park, is a heartening accomplishment.