South Africa: More elephants headed for Knysna after rare sighting

Mar 13, 2024 | News

By Edwin Lombard, IOL

More elephants could be introduced to the Knysna forest after the rare sighting of a wild female elephant.

South African National Parks (SANParks) said since the confirmation of the presence of a wild female elephant remaining in the Knysna forest and fynbos under its management, evidence-based decision-making required them to embark on two types of assessments (sociological and ecological) that will guide future management on the existence of elephant/s in the area.

It said a targeted survey was conducted as part of the sociological assessments.

Its response rate reached a total of 74% of the 500 contacts made. Results of the study support the introduction of more elephants to the Garden Route elephant range.

The SANParks statement said: “Those respondents favouring the re-introduction of elephants in the Knysna forest cited reasons ranging from ecological, cultural and historical values and also cautioned against commercial interest.

“Most respondents advised that there must be a cautious management approach that is informed by inputs from elephant specialists, followed by landowners and conservation authorities.”

The ecological studies examined the elephant’s physiological condition, behaviour in response to human activities, identification of potential human-wildlife conflict areas as well as understanding the reason behind the demise of the elephant population in the area.

These assessments supported the evidence of there being only one female elephant in the forest area and confirmed the extent of her feeding range.

Different stress hormone levels found in the female elephant’s dung indicated that her hormone system is functioning well. In areas with low human presence, her stress hormone levels were low.

“Camera trap footage showed her to be relaxed while in high human-use areas or events but where she was being followed by humans, the stress hormones in her dung were high.

“This aligned with her movement and behavioural patterns that showed avoidance of areas with higher likelihood of human presence and contact.

“Both the social and ecological studies support management options that are low-risk, cautious and of minimal-disturbance as well as an acknowledgement that any management option should be informed by experts,” the statement said.

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