The 11th of July was one of great celebration at Plett Game Reserve as we welcomed a family of rescued elephants, our first elephants, to our 3000 ha reserve to make their home amongst our zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, hippos, antelope and buck. The elephants named Mpho, Lundi, Kito, Ntombi, Harry, Namib, Gambo, Tosha and her calf Tembi will now be part of the game drive experience at Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve and visitors to the park will be able to view them on one of our game drives or horse safaris.
The elephants’ road to Plett Game Reserve
In 2013, four elephants (then aged 1-3 years old, now named Mpho, Lundi, Kito and Ntombi), were part of a herd living on a private hunting farm due to close down. The 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?
Authorities agreed that if a suitable home could be found, the babies might be saved. Local elephant sanctuary, Knysna Elephant Park, offered these youngsters a new and safe home; and permits were issued for their transfer. However, fate seemed to be against the four; and unforeseen circumstances caused frustrating delays.
Ever since their rescue, the long-term objective for the elephants 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. But, first of all, a surrogate family had to be found. To release these immature and naïve youngsters, alone, back into the wild, would spell certain death.
Knysna Elephant Park 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; and would allow them 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 11 July 2016, the next step of their journey was completed, when the entire bonded herd was successfully relocated to the nearby Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve – the ‘wild’ home that was promised to the four young orphans.
This relocation represents the realisation of the goal that the Knysna Elephant Park committed to three years ago: to offer four baby elephants a home as close as possible to the wild, within a bonded herd, where management is still able to observe the welfare, condition and progress of the animals under their care.
Starting at first light, the team, assisted by local wildlife vet Brendon Tindall and professional game transport company, Mpatamatcha, safely loaded and transferred the elephants to us, 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…they were together and in a safe place.
We’re pleased to report that the family is adjusting beautifully, guided by their trusted handlers, who have moved with them to their new home.
What now for the elephants?
The African Elephant Research Unit (AERU), Knysna Elephant Park’s on-site research unit, has been monitoring the elephants since their arrival 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 nighttime behaviour, allowing AERU to keep a close eye on the elephant’s well-being.
Please contact us for more information on the elephants, we look forward to introducing you to this truly remarkable family! They will only be viewed on game drives and horse safaris and no human interaction is permitted.