Elephant Management

Contributing to Elephant Care

The Knysna Elephant Park has dedicated the last twenty years to elephants; and it is both nationally and internationally recognised as one of the best captive elephant facilities in the world.

Calves rescued from culls, elephants relocated from reserves where conflict with rhino threatened their survival, a tiny calf, searching for milk after losing her mother in a translocation, orphaned and abandoned calves from reserves and zoos, animals no longer wanted by their owners as they were seen to be unworkable – the Park has taken each and every one of these animals on. They have all found a home with the Knysna Elephant Park ‘family’, which extends well beyond the physical borders of the Park. Some elephants have stayed and become part of our resident herd. Others have moved on to other facilities and even reserves where they now roam freely and have started their own new families.

Our management style includes what we call a “controlled, free-range environment”, which allows our elephants as much freedom as possible, within the borders of the Park. Our elephants know to gather at specific points should they want to be fed from guests’ snack buckets. Following this feeding session, the elephants are free to move away and graze, browse, wallow or play. Guests are then invited to follow the elephants and enjoy their time in amongst the herd: observing and learning about elephant biology and behaviour. This type of management is unique and is not found anywhere else in South Africa.

The Park has played a vital role in formulating regulations and guidelines for captive elephants throughout South Africa. We have even worked towards challenging and changing traditionally accepted management to better suit the welfare needs of captive elephants. In 2009, a research unit was started, specifically aimed at improving elephant welfare through science. AERU (African Elephant Research Unit) now collaborates with local and international researchers on a variety of elephant issues, from nutrition and reproduction to communication, behaviour and welfare.

The Park has strict guidelines that guide all tourism activities, so that animal welfare is never compromised; and that the impact made by tourism on the elephants is a positive one. Handling of elephants is conducted according to internationally recognised standards. All activities are conducted ethically and responsibly, in line with Best Practice Guidelines for captive elephants.