Chilled ellies are a matter of good relations

Elephants frolicking in the Addo Elephant National Park .
Elephants frolicking in the Addo Elephant National Park .

Ever wondered if you are imagining that the elephant in the Addo Elephant National Park are very relaxed? Particularly if you’ve driven around other national parks where these animals roam, and had to do a quick reverse in the face of flapping ears and loud trumpeting.

The reason is very simple, says John Adendorff, Addo Elephant National Park conservation manager. “The elephant here are exposed to massive tourism in a small area on a daily basis.”

He adds that they also don’t have the risk of danger from poachers that elephants in a park like Kruger suffer from. The park’s elephant- management history also counts in their favour.

They have never been culled in Addo, where their numbers have been managed by contraception, and expanding the land available to them to roam. As a result, they are not afraid of people.

But Addo’s elephant weren’t always this friendly. They suffered hugely from human prosecution, until once-massive herds dwindled to only 11 survivors in 1931.

Due to hunting and chasing, these were aggressive animals, and in the early years, before the renowned Armstrong fence could contain them, several people were trampled to death in the surrounding area.

“Until the ’50s or ’60s it was incredibly difficult to get close to them,” says Adendorff. People were only allowed to start driving in the park in the 1980s. This was also about the last time the park had an incident of conflict between tourists and an elephant.

Today, the more than 500 giants in the park are a generation that don’t know any human prosecution, and are mostly the ancestors of those remaining 11 elephants. It was only in 2003 that bulls from Kruger were introduced into the current herd. Some were later also introduced into the Nyathi section.

While tourists are still cautioned to be vigilant in any wildlife area, and respect the animals in their natural environment, it seems that there is a chance that you might get a slightly warmer reception in Addo.

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