Elephants return to Darlington

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After an absence of 150 years. elephants are once again roaming the Darlington section of the Addo Elephant National Park. On July 31, World Ranger Day, the first of 28 animals were released in this section of the park, after years of planning to move the animals back to the area where they historically occurred.

Four months before the move, a family group was selected from the park’s main game area, which
is currently home to 600 elephants. The move will alleviate some of the pressure in this area, and also provide a new habitat for the pachyderms.

Addo’s senior section ranger Anban Padayachee says they will be keeping an eye on the elephants to see how they adapt. The Darlington section is known for its succulent Karoo vegetation as opposed to the thicket in the main game area. “Food is not a problem here, but they are used to being around other families and communicating with each other.” he says.

elephant relocation

Transporting the elephants to Darlington brought several challenges. The first elephants were anticipated to arrive just after lunch, but due to tyre pressure issues on the heavily loaded truck, mountain passes and the long distance, the elephants only arrived after dark.

Darlington Dam

In 1937 when the park was proclaimed, only 11 elephants remained, as a result of hunting. Today,
the park protects entire ecosystems as opposed to single species. The park’s rich diversity spans five of South Africa’s nine biomes and includes Albany thicket, fynbos, forest,  Nama Karoo and the Indian Ocean Coastal Belt.

The Darlington section covers about 45 000 hectares and includes the Darlington Dam. Lion, leopard, buffalo, gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest and kudu already roam the area and Padayachee says there are hopes wild dogs might be next to join.

Deon de Vos. mayor for the Dr Beyers Naude Local Municipality says the nearby town of Jansenville should benefit too, as tourists could stay at local guest houses.

Written by René de Klerk

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