2019 & 2020 News
Establishing Welfare Parameters on Small Fenced Game Reserves
In order to complement our work on reintegrating captive elephants, we have embarked on a project endeavoring to understand how to better assess elephant welfare on fenced reserves. Our project on understanding the effects of various management activities on elephant welfare has seen us visiting several reserves spread across South Africa over the last year and a half. As the first official research project we have embarked on, we are excited to be wrapping up the first part and collating all this data at last. It has been so encouraging to see the interest with which these reserves have embraced involvement in this project while also making reserve resources available to help us maximise data collection opportunities. This work would not be possible without this buy-in from these reserves as they so kindly accommodated our field researchers for at least 6 weeks of the year allowing for the collection of this valuable data.
With elephants being such complex animals, everything from reserve size, to tourist density, to herd and social dynamics can play very influential roles on their wellbeing. It is our objective to turn our findings into constructive feedback for each of these reserves as we continue to grow our understanding of what it takes to best manage elephants on fenced reserves in South Africa.
We are extremely grateful for the support of the EMS Foundation that has seen the value in this work and enabled us to carry this project out.
Clocking up the observation hours as we delve into the intricacies of what different behavioral occurrences and frequencies can tell us.
Monitoring Reintegrated Herds
It is hard to believe that it’s been five years already since we initiated our first two elephant reintegration operations. Both herds were previously used to conduct elephant-back safaris and have now both been fully reintegrated onto large reserves where they are still doing well and roaming as free elephants. We continue to follow up with monitoring sessions on these two particularly important reintegrated groups to ensure they are still doing well and to document all stages of this process for future reference.
Four years after their release and still loving the freedom of no longer being used for elephant back safaris as they enjoy a mud bath as a family.
Collaring the original reintegrated herd to monitor the progress of this group getting acquainted with a wild herd introduced to the population. Having a wild herd to interact with is both good for genetics and important for the social wellbeing of this reintegrated herd as elephants are such family and socially centered animals!
Bundles of Joy and hope
Following these two separate reintegration's, both herds have since had calves born to them. This is perhaps the ultimate indication of success, as elephants in captivity predominantly struggle to breed due to fitness problems, stress, and lack of knowledge, amongst other things. Therefore, we are delighted about the birth of these calves and the value they add to these herds as well as to the conservation of elephants.
One of our goals for 2020 was to introduce a wild herd onto the reserve which accommodates our original, previously captive herd. This introduction aimed to provide a more natural system for the
reintegrated group by giving them another herd to have social interactions with - something critically important for the wellbeing of elephants as a whole.
In 2019 we became aware of a reserve that was desperately looking to decrease it’s elephant population numbers or it would ultimately consider using culling as a form of bringing its elephant numbers down. This is not an outcome anyone would hope for and we were determined to at least save one herd from this population. In spite of 2020 odds, and in partnership with some incredible organisations, we were able to save and translocate a herd from this reserve to join our reintegrated herd on their much larger reserve.
This would not have been possible without Fondation Franz Webber eagerly jumping on board to support this move just in the nick of time. Thanks also to HSI-Africa and Global Supplies, we were simultaneously able to collar the herds for monitoring purposes and the implementation of the immuno-contraceptive program which will be used to humanely control the growth of this population.
This initiative and collaboration was certainly a highpoint in the year and we could not be more grateful for such valued partners.
Happy faces after a successful elephant collaring and translocation
Just in Time for Happy Hour
After releasing the wild herd onto their new home, none of us could have predicted the incredible sequence of events that followed. The resident elephants must have heard the rumbles of the newcomers and within an hour they began approaching and met up with them.
What’s more, the resident herd immediately led the new, likely very thirsty, elephants to the closest waterhole. Their bond was now forged, and these herds have not split up since. Their sensitivity and communication never ceases to amaze.
Loading the herd of elephants to be moved to their new reserve where their lives would no longer be in jeopardy.
The herd safely loaded in a large, specialized truck for transit.
Auction Under the Lowveld Stars
We spent a beautiful evening under the stars alongside Elephants Alive in Hoedspruit for a fundraising evening focused on celebrating elephants. With some incredibly generous prizes donated for the auction and raffle, the evening was both informative and a great success.
Elephants Alive donated a portion of the proceeds to ERT which we were incredibly grateful for. Not only are we able to support each other through research collaborations but it is great to be able to support and raise awareness for likeminded organisations like this too.
Special thanks to Singita Sabi Sands for donating a beautiful print of an elephant, taken by their resident photographer Ross Couper, for the auction.
Drive 2 Rewild
As we kickstarted our second project, in order to allow a second field researcher to expand data collection opportunities onto other reserves, we found ourselves in need of a second research vehicle. Not necessarily the easiest thing to fundraise for, but with the support of a few very generous donors we are happy to say that a trusty old second hand Toyota Prado was added to our fleet. Special thanks to Ashleigh Simms & the EMS Foundation who donated a large portion of the funds needed to make this possible.
Meet ‘Egret’, a vehicle that has given us the means to continue monitoring elephants across the country, with focus on our reintegrated herds.
Conferences & Panels
SAWMA Symposium Wilderness 2019 .
Considering the importance of public engagement and awareness around elephant conservation, 2019 saw us taking part in the annual South African Wildlife Management Symposium. This conference was attended by 160 delegates including wildlife scientists and managers alike with Tammy Eggeling, presenting on the aims, objectives, and methods of ERTs welfare project which was still in its beginning phase at that point. Next, we hope to be able to present some interesting findings that will provide further insight into better understanding elephant dynamics in the context of highly managed fenced reserves. A huge thank you to EMS Foundation for sponsoring our costs to this symposium.
Taking Elephants out of the Room-Hermanus 2019
In September ERT took part in a panel discussion hosted by the EMS foundation. The focus of the panel was to highlight the concerns around so many elephants in captivity in South Africa. With commentary from several world-renowned elephant specialists and experts from across the globe, a range of aspects were addressed with ERT trustees, Brett Mitchell, Dr Yolanda Pretorius and Dr Marion Garai also taking part, whose presentations covered “The Captive Elephant Industry in South Africa”, “Comparing Elephant Situations” and “Elephants in Zoos Worldwide” respectively. These thought provoking conversations were recorded and made available for streaming and all topics covered can be found on the EMS Foundation’s YouTube channel.
We are extremely excited to announce that we are securing ERT as a listed charity on the MySchool system in South Africa! Now MySchool and Woolworths card holders are able to select us as a beneficiary (up to three beneficiaries can be added, so fear not if there are other causes you would like to keep supporting too!). This means that while card holders shop at stores such as Woolworths, Waltons, Builders or fill up at Engen, proceeds will go towards ERT without costing them anything extra. There’s nothing to lose!
We extend a huge thank you to those who have already signed up and added us as a beneficiary (otherwise let us know if you would like to still be sent the user friendly digital application form), the support means the absolute world to us.
Please feel free to encourage any friends and family who might be interested in signing up too, as support like this goes a long way in keeping an organisation like ours going.