Elephants Take Rightful Place

www.MyPE.co.za: The
elephant population of the Addo National Elephant Park might be a bit
confused when they approach an area well-known for having a 4km stretch
of fence blocking their path – and find it gone.

Paul Daphne and Norman JohnsonLast week on Thursday
19 August, officials from Mandela Bay Tourism
(NMBT),
SANParks, rangers, volunteers, employees and members of the
media converged at the fence and promptly begun a fence-cutting
ceremony which would see an area of Addo National Elephant Park
extended by 12 000ha to 24 000ha.

This would give the burgeoning elephant population additional roaming
and grazing land, officials said.

“They say an elephant never forgets, and I think today will be one of
those unforgettable moments for both them and us,” said NMBT marketing
manager Titus Chuene, of the historic moment, where the elephants would
be free return to their “ancestral land”.

In the 1920s a small herd of 11 elephant took refuge in the dense
Oilphantsplaat thicket from government-endorsed hunts aimed at
protecting the nascent farming industry. It is from this original group
that the 550 strong herd that now dominates the Park grew, after the 11
elephants were incorporated into the Park in 1931.

“Now we can really say Mayibuye Ndlovu, or let the elephant return,”
said SANParks executive manager Paul Daphne, who pointed to Addo as a
prime example of the integration of conservation, tourism, commercial
development and stakeholder engagement.

The dropping of the fence will effectively merge the two areas
stretching from the Addo Main Camp down to the Park’s Camp Matyholweni
rest camp near Colchester on the Algoa Bay coastline. Elephants, lion,
hyena and other species will be able to move gradually across to the
Colchester area of the Park. Buffalo, zebra and antelope species have
already been introduced to the area.

“Addo is one of Nelson Mandela Bay’s biggest tourism drawcards, we are
ecstatic that they are making headway on their expansion plans, and
that their elephant population wins in the process by getting a little
more breathing space,” added Chuene.

Environmental journalist Guy Rogers said it was quite interesting that
the original 11 elephants had been lured from the thicket and into the
Park in 1931 by oranges they were almost killed to protect. “Now,
79-years later, their descendants would follow the same path in the
opposite direction, lured into the formerly inaccessible area by one of
their favourite treats, the prickly pear. They will be treating
themselves and also in the process do the environment a favour by
controlling an invader species, prickly pear,” said Rogers.

The Colchester area has also been developed to the tune of R30-million
on tourist roads, R3-million on fencing, R3-million on wildlife
introduction, R6-million on the construction of the rest camp and
another R3-million on removing old fence lines and invasive alien
vegetation in collaboration with SANParks, the Department of
Environmental Affairs’ Poverty Relief programme and Infrastructure
Development Programme as well as the World Bank, Addo Elephant National
Park’s Manager, Norman Johnson added.

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