Knysna’s gentle giants
Knysna Elephant Park is home to some splendid animals your kids will be amazed by.
Meeting the elephants of the Knysna Elephant Park (situated on the N2 between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay)was an absolutely amazing experience. Not only for us as parents of a disabled child, but for everyone who is able to be in close proximity to these gentle giants.

You have to be open to the key energy and allow yourself to let go of the restrictions that inhibit you. Elephants display a high degree of social complexity. They have memories that span years, all collated from their highly sophisticated sense of smell. They can live beyond 65 years old and have six sets of teeth in their lifetime, when the final set is worn to the gums the elephant will inevitably die of starvation. They have very large and complex brains - at an average of 4,8kg the elephant brain is the largest among living and extinct terrestrial mammals, and they have the greatest volume of cerebral cortex available for cognitive processing of all land mammals.

Researcher, Joyce Poole, states ‘... elephants have a very complex social system - one of the few fluid fission-fusion societies - and, therefore, they have needed to develop a complex suite of vocalisations to interact in an appropriate way with the many different individuals they meet on a daily basis and to mediate the many complex relationships they maintain.’

Greg Vogt, spokesperson for the park and the Elephant Tourism Association, says, “Elephants are regarded as a Keystone Species – they can significantly alter the environment in such a way that they determine the lives of other species”. The Knysna Elephant Park, founded in 1994, and the first of its kind in South Africa, provides a home for orphaned elephants. The elephants are cared for in a controlled free-range environment. The park is a rehabilitation centre and can boast to having found homes in private reserves for 4 elephants in 2008.

In January 2009 they took in 2 ex-zoo elephants and are currently looking for homes for them. In October 2009 they opened the first research center of its kind in South Africa focusing on captive elephants. According to Greg Vogt the ‘focus will be to establish a scientific basis which is specific to our context, rather than to rely on zoo research as in the past.’ The elephants of the Knysna Forest are the only elephants in South Africa that are not fenced in and they occupy an area of land 80 000 hectares in size.

The African elephant (both the forest and savannah species) is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, just one step below Endangered. If ever you have the opportunity to visit the park you must say hello to: Sally, Thambile, Nandi, Tosha, Thandi, Keisha, Shungu, Harry, Namib, Shaka, Mashundu and Thato (3 years old) – the baby, who drinks 40 litres of S26 milk per day.

Read more about Nura and the elephants.

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