PICS: Elephants return to the plains of Camdeboo

2017-11-03 10:38 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Picture: Suplied

Cape Town - Award-winning Samara Private Game Reserve has reintroduced a small family group of six elephants to its game reserve.

This follows a translocation undertaken by wildlife capture specialist Kester Vickery of Conservation Solutions which was partially funded by the NGO Elephants, Rhinos & People and the Friends of Samara and also supported by Wilderness Foundation UK.

The reintroduction of the herd of elephants took place on Wednesday, 1 November and is said to mark a conservation milestone as these animals return to their historic range, entrenching Samara’s status as one of the most significant conservation areas in the Karoo. 

Once the herd is settled, the reserve says they will be joined by a mature bull and in time, another small family group may also be introduced.

SEE: Samara: A secluded Eastern Cape escape

According to owners of Samara Private Game Reserve, Sarah and Mark Tompkins, when they first established the reserve in 1997 their aim was to restore the area to the wildlife haven it had been, before species like cheetah, rhino, Cape lion, springbok and elephant were eradicated by early farmers and settlers.

“This is an extremely important area from an ecological point of view,” says Sarah, adding that the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Thicket, where the game reserve's 27 000 hectares of scenic wilderness are located, has been designated as one of the world’s 36 Global Biodiversity Hotspots.

(Elephant introduced to new home - Samara Private Game Reserve)

As one of the largest private game reserve in the Eastern Cape comprising of four vegetation biomes, Samara acts as a crucial catalyst for protecting the delicate and diverse ecosystem of the Great Karoo, and the Tompkins work to create a system of corridors and partnerships that will result in the creation of the third largest protected area in South Africa. 

(Elephant introduced to new home - Samara Private Game Reserve)

As part of this, the reserve has long held the goal of reintroducing elephants back to the plains of Camdeboo, made famous by Eve Palmer’s 1966 book of the same name, an ode to this semi-arid landscape. 

This goal, according to the reserve, was even more significant given that the population of African elephants is currently in a state of crisis, having declined by an alarming 30% in just 10 years. 

SEE: Cycling in the wild: Samara introduces mountain biking tracks

Sarah says the recent Great Elephant Census funded by Paul G Allen, shows that numbers continue to decrease because of poaching for ivory, human-wildlife conflict, and habitat loss. 

Added to this, to safeguard the future of the species there is a need to manage elephants as part of meta-populations – a group of spatially-separated populations between which translocations can take place to ensure genetic diversity and to establish founder populations in areas where elephants previously occurred but have since been eradicated – such as the Karoo.

“It’s a significant moment for so many reasons,” Sarah adds. “Not least of which is the fact that the introduction is symbolically recreating ancient elephant migratory routes from the coast.”

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