Monday, January 2, 2012

Reflections on Africa's Elephant by Martin Meredith

After reading Africa’s Elephant – pictured above…..I dwelt on two paragraphs, which related specifically to the Cape Province and, more specifically, Addo, in the Eastern Cape.

Elephants have been subjected to “periods of brutality and persecution” yet were described by poet John Donne as “Nature’s great masterpiece, the only harmless great thing”.

By 1760 Elephants could no longer be found south of the Oliphants River on the western coast of the Cape Colony; on the eastern coast the nearest Elephant strongholds lay 500 miles distant from Cape Town. They remained plentiful in the eastern frontier region for a short while longer. A travelling Swedish scientist, Anders  Sparrman, referred in 1775 to incredible numbers there. A government official in 1797 reported a herd 400 strong. But by 1830, when Elephant hunting in the Cape Colony was banned, only two small herds were left in the Eastern Cape, one hidden deep in the Knysna forest and the other in the Addo bush country. Out of a herd once estimated at 25 000 (some believe more), no more than a few 100 survived. It was the first mass extinction since Roman times.” Page 62 Africa’s Elephant

The survival of the few remaining Elephant herds in South Africa was still precarious, however. When the small herd in Addo in the Eastern Cape, forty miles from Port Elizabeth, began raiding citrus crops on neighbouring farms, the authorities ordered their extermination. Extermination was seen as the only solution to the growing conflict between Elephants and farmers expanding into territory where they had once roamed freely. A professional hunter was hired. One by one, some 120 Elephants were killed. By 1919 only 16 were left.  But this tiny band held out, hiding in impenetrable thorn thickets. After twelve years of intermittent incidents, the government gave in and in 1931 proclaimed Addo an Elephant National Park. Eleven Elephants had survived the campaign.”  Page 124 Africa’s Elephant

Today the Addo National Elephant Park is home to nearly 500 Elephants in the main Park and on the adjoining Nyathi Concession, on which RiverBend Lodge is situated. What struck me, after reading Africa’s Elephant, was the enormity of our responsibility. Even more so when examined in the light of what is happening to Rhino’s today. At RiverBend Lodge we take our responsibility seriously. Our Guides love sharing the story of what can only be viewed as one of the most successful Conservation stories of modern history. We realise we play, when viewed against the bigger picture, only a minor part in this extraordinary story. We are thankful for this custodianship….and we love sharing this with Guests. Coupled with the other elements we offer – your visit could be a life changing experience.

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