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The Return of the Elephants to Babanango Game Reserve

Picture: Chris Galliers – Addo Elephant Capture

September 28, 2023

Babanango Game Reserve has introduced elephants onto its 20,000-hectare property in an extraordinary stride for South African wildlife conservation efforts. This occasion signals their triumphant return to an area of Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal, where they have been absent for more than 150 years.

A small breeding herd of seven elephants was brought in from Manyoni Private Game Reserve in Maputaland, with their genetic lineage coming from Kruger National Park. Two bulls from Tembe Elephant Park in northern KwaZulu Natal followed this. The most recent additions to the reserve were seven elephants from Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape.

General Manager, Conservation, and Operations at Babanango Game Reserve, Ryan Andraos, said, ‘We can’t express how delighted we are! This incredible milestone was only possible thanks to so much hard work being done for so many years by so many dedicated people. No words can describe the delight of seeing these pachyderms moving through this magnificent landscape.’

Introducing elephants from different locations in South Africa into a single population enhances genetic diversity, which is crucial for the long-term health and viability of the population. It also contributes to the conservation of this species, where the challenge facing elephants in Southern Africa is not the low number of elephants but the reduction in available habitat. As such, the move has helped reduce elephant pressures on the reserves where they have come from whilst establishing a new population and expansion of their range.

The translocation of the elephants from three different reserves across South Africa was made possible through key partner collaborations with Conservation Outcomes, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Aspinall Foundation, Over and Above Africa, DCM Surfaces, South African National Parks and Conservation Solutions. The reintroduction of elephants establishes Babanango Game Reserve as a Big Five reserve and has an important and positive effect on the reserve’s ecosystem as a whole.

Elephants, being megaherbivores, play a crucial role in the ecological function of the reserve. They are rapid recyclers of plant matter that help other species like dung beetles and birds. They are habitat engineers, modifying the landscapes as they consume vegetation other species can’t. Although known to push over trees, elephants play an important role in planting trees by distributing the seeds.

The establishment and rewilding of Babanango Game Reserve represents one of the most ambitious rewilding projects in Southern Africa in recent years. This rewilding process is vital for the reserve to enable the rehabilitation and restoration of biodiversity and the conservation of wilderness through responsible, sustainable tourism and resource use. The reserve incorporates a significant portion of land that has been invested by three community trusts from the region, whose commitment plays a crucial role in long-term conservation success. The income generated through land leases, conservation levies, and other benefits from the reserve is vital for the economic well-being of the surrounding communities.

By The Novum Times


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