The majestic elephant stands as a barometer of the status of man’s onslaught on the natural world over the past three hundred odd years......a battle elephants have rapidly been losing. Their size, social structure and living requirements count strongly against them in their struggle to eke out an existence in a hostile world. Our obsession with ivory has led to the decimation of elephant herds in both Africa and Asia, besides depleting the irreplaceable gene pools of the ‘big tuskers’.
Elephants once roamed widely over the coastal areas of the Western Cape in South Africa. As the European colonists spread along this coast they hunted these herds indiscriminately, exterminating entire populations. In the late 19th century some 500 animals sought refuge in the extensive Knysna forests, but to no avail. Uncontrolled logging encroached deep into their refuge, exposing this remnant population to the hunter’s gun. In 1908, when protection was finally given to the Knysna elephants, only 20 animals were counted. This small population continued to decline to this day when probably only a handful of individuals have survived......way below critical population survival levels.
Knysna Elephant Park (KEP), established in 1994 as a sanctuary for orphaned elephants, is a small but significant step in man’s acknowledgement of his past mistakes and in his atonement for his past wrongdoings. Situated just 22km from Knysna, Bamboo guests should include this family friendly venue on their excursion list. Founders Lisette and Ian Withers, spurred on by their drive to improve the lot of any animal in distress, created the first captive elephant operation in South Africa. Harry and Sally, two orphans from a culling operation in the Kruger National Park, were the first arrivals in 1994. Lisette quickly honed her elephant care skills by attending an internationally acclaimed course in the USA. Harry and Sally, only some 5 years old at the time of their arrival at KEP, became the foundation upon which a world class elephant care centre was built over the next 17 years.
Elephants from many different areas arrived at KEP over the years, Harry and Sally being the calming influence on the often traumatised new residents. The elephants are ‘trained’ to accept humans via a process known as Instinct Behaviour Modification, a program that reassures the elephants that humans mean them no harm. Being highly intelligent animals the elephants soon learn that the humans they interact with have no ill intentions.
Thus KEP has managed to both provide a sanctuary for distressed elephants and fulfil a valuable role in educating the public about these magnificent creatures. The free-ranging matriarchal herd interacts with guests on their own terms - the elephants will only visit feeding stations when they so desire. Getting up close and personal with the elephants makes a lasting impression on visitors and is truly a unique and spiritual experience.
KEP can be proud of their rehabilitation and rescue record, evidenced by the placing of elephants in reserves around the country. Lizette and Ian are regarded as leaders in the rescue of elephants in South Africa. On your next visit to Bamboo, the Guest House Accommodation Knysna, take time out to interact with the ellies at KEP.
Visit their Website for more information.