Why this reserve is so important to Elephants
Background: In 2002 the South African tourist industry added a new draw card to its industry with the establishment of elephant-back safari/ elephant interaction operators within in its borders for the first time.To date there are approximately 80-100 captive elephants in South Africa. Some of these elephants are involved in circuses, filming & entertainment, elephant interaction with the public activities and elephant back safaris.
Several of the captive elephant populations were brought into South Africa from Zimbabwe, where the concept of elephant back safaris had been established for a number of years prior to being trans-located to South Africa. Some of the captive elephants share a similar history of being rescued from culls conducted in Zimbabwe in the 70’s and 80’s. A number of young elephants had been captured and were destined to go overseas to zoos and safari parks in order to raise much needed funds for National Parks. A group of local farmers, in a quest to keep them on African soil purchased these young elephants and it was through this ‘rescue mission’ that the Zimbabwean model for captive elephants and elephant back safaris was born.
Over the last 10-12 years, the elephants sourced for captivity within the confines of South Africa were sourced under various circumstances mainly through the capture of wild elephants for captive and commercial gain. The captive elephant industry brought with it a number of controversies over the years where the ethics of operating elephants commercially is questioned in various formats.
Today the reality of operating elephants has realized its potential with factors such as sourcing elephants for this purpose being halted by the establishment of norms and standards by government and acquiring the correct skills to operate being a major inhibiting factor when considering a commitment to fostering elephants. Operators new to the industry have been challenged by the reality of dealing with elephants at this level making it commercially a lot less attractive as problems present themselves highlighting the difficulty in dealing with these realities.
The elephant back safari industry is a relatively new concept in Africa – for the most part elephants involved in the elephant back safari industry were sub-adult elephants, ideal for operating safaris. Only now are these elephants reaching a mature adult stage.
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