Friday, 12 July 2013

Frivolous Friday: Elephant Hugs

It's a week ago since I abandoned the family and shot off down the coast to Knysna to see my aunt. See post explaining all here. Anyway, while I was there, we visited the Knysna Elephant Park. The Tsitsikamama Forest near Knysna used to be home to hundreds of elephants, but poaching and hunting have brought the natural herd to the point of extinction. (There are still wild elephants in the forest, but in numbers so small you can probably count them on one hand) So, enter the Knysna Elephant Park. 

At this sanctuary rescued elephants are ambassadors for the entire ellie species. Visitors, like us, are able to touch these giants. You can even get an ellie cuddle - like I did from this six-year-old baby boy. Standing next to him, rubbing his leathery, bristled skin was thrilling. 

Me, getting hugged by an elephant

Being shadowed by his giant matriarch Sally? Not such fun. 

Me and Sally
That was just plain intimidating. She is HUGE. Her legs are like oak trees  - and you can imagine if one of those fell on you.

South Africa has one of the largest, most viable elephant populations left in the world, but due to limited habitat and elephants natural tendency to wreck their environment, the South African Wildlife Department run regular culls to keep the herds healthy. This controversial programme does result in orphans. The Knynsa Elephant Park is just one place where these babies find homes. 

Do I agree with culling? 
I believe elephants are akin to dogs, dolphins and whales when it comes to pure intelligence. I lived for a year in the Okavango Delta in Botswana where wild elephants were as common as sparrows. They visited my home daily, ripping up trees, threatening to flatten my house, entertaining Andrew and my guests with their incredible - and often dangerous - antics. I adore them. They are without doubt my favourite wild creature. 

But I have also seen them amble through a forest, snapping the trees like they were matchsticks, moving on without even feeding, leaving total devastation behind them. This natural behaviour seriously threatens their own and other animals viability. In the day when Africa was theirs, it didn't matter, but now with people, governments and borders, that lifestyle just isn't an option. So, sadly, yes, I do believe in controlled culling by humane wildlife experts. And thank heavens for places like Knysna Elephant Park who step in and help with the casualties when things go terribly wrong.

Hope you like my pics. Have a happy weekend.

PS. Don't forget to drop in and visit Elisa for her Frivolous Friday.

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