Addo Elephant Park

Buried deep within the dense bushveld of the Eastern Cape lies the Addo Elephant Park. The most noticeable attraction of the Addo Elephant Park is the park's 350 African Elephants. The Black Rhino and Cape Buffalo are also exciting residents of Addo, as well as many other large herbivores, such as the Kudu, Eland, Red Hartebeest and Springbok. As a magnificently diverse national park, it offers a wide variety of game viewing, outdoor adventure, accommodation and cultural experiences. The Addo Elephant National Park is fully integrated into the regional landscape, conserving and enhancing the terrestrial and marine biodiversity, ecological processes and cultural, historical and scenic resources that are representative of the Eastern Cape region. This aids in cultivating appreciation in present and future generations.

The original elephant section of the park was proclaimed in 1931, when only 11 elephants remained in the area. Today, however, it is a sanctuary to over 350 elephants! The park provides a haven for these majestic creatures in which they can roam safely and in peace. These elephants are all descendents of just a handful of individuals who survived an attempt to wipe out the entire Eastern Cape elephant population in the early 1900's. In other areas, poaching had completely obliterated their populations but, due to the impenetrable nature of the Addo bush, a few elephants in this area survived.

However, the farming community also decided that their elephant neighbours were unwanted pests and, as a result, hired a hunter to exterminate the animals. Between July 1919 and August 1920, he killed about 120 elephants in the Addo area. Fortunately the slaughter was halted and, in 1931, the Addo Elephant National Park was constructed to provide a sanctuary for the only 11 surviving elephants.

Fencing of the park was made possible in 1954, thus also facilitating the population's recovery. Prior to this, elephants continued to roam outside their protected area, often resulting in fatal conflicts with the local farmers. At this time, the population mortality rate was high and the growth rate minimal. The secure fencing of the park reduced mortality rates, producing an increase in the population growth. Between the years of 1931 and 1954, their numbers increased from 11 animals to just 22. After the fencing of the park, the population steadily increased to its current size of 350 elephants in the area. The fencing, however, also caused other problems. The elephant bulls seemed to have cultivated unusually high levels of aggression. Between 70 and 90 percent of male deaths were caused by fighting amongst themselves.

Photographic identification of each and every member of the elephant population at Addo has been compiled. Elephants are distinguished by their notches and holes in their ears, the size and shape of their tusks, as well as the patterns of wrinkles of their face. Photographs have been taken of the right and left side of every individual that is older than six years old. Like the human finger print, these distinguish each animal and do not change as the animal grows older. These files, spanning some 70 years, have resulted in in-depth data analyses of the population's growth and recovery.

Plans to expand the Addo Elephant National Park substantially will ensure a bright future for the Addo elephants. The population will continue to grow as the park is enlarged to 100 times its original founder size.

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