08 May, 2014

Elephants and the Armstrong Fence at Addo

 - gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

From the Ungardener’s Tour Guide Spiel -- Addo Elephant National Park (Addo from kadow = a river crossing) 

Elephants at waterhole in Addo

'With the urbanisation of the Sundays River Valley, in 1919 a professional hunter, Major Pretorius, was appointed to eliminate the elephants. In 12 months he shot 120 elephants. When there were only 16 left, it was decided to cease the killing. These animals had to fight for their survival, until the park was founded in 1931. In the subsequent years, the elephants occasionally broke thru the fence to raid the neighbouring orange farms. (Elephants love oranges!) Two of them were even killed by the trains which run alongside the park. In 1951, under Ranger Armstrong, a strong elephant-proof fence was built from old lift/elevator cables donated by the nearby Otis factory. Also rails from the tramlines from Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg (when trams were replaced by buses). These rails were driven deep into the ground and connected with each other by the lift cables and wooden poles. The famous Armstrong Fence was born' 

Armstrong fence against Addo's elephants

Addo bush with elephants

In March 2010 here with car-mirror for scale, and so you can see, that they are ‘almost’ close enough to touch. I could see the wrinkles, and the mud, and the eyelashes. A little TOO close to that Elephant’s Eye.

Addo elephant next to our car

From the Visitors Map today - 
NO CITRUS FRUIT ALLOWED IN THE WILDLIFE AREA! The reason - In the past, elephants were fed large amounts of citrus fruits in winter so tourists could see them. Some elephants were injured and many showed signs of severe stress when competing for oranges. Feeding citrus was phased out by 1979. 

While the rest of the herd, large and small, drank and bathed, this mother remained alert, watching us. She walked away with the rest, without drinking any water herself.

Elephant mother watching us carefully

This one is my own favourite. They looked so enchanting, walking perfectly in step.

Stepping out with Mum

The Ungardener’s favourite. A long skein of elephants, approaching the waterhole.

Skein of elephants approaching the waterhole (with a wary warthog)

Addo has recently been extended. We stayed in the new cottages, in Matyholweni, which the guard at the gate tried to teach us to say (it has a Xhosa click in it). The park includes FIVE of South Africa’s seven biomes - Forest, Subtropical Thicket (Spekboom), Grassland, Fynbos (we walked the Zuurberg cycad trail), and Nama Karoo (where Agave and Prickly Pear flourish around abandoned farmhouses)

I left a query at SANParks forums. Anyone know when these twin baby elephants were born?

Pair of baby elephants

Two baby elephants

It's quite unlikely that these two baby elephants are twins considering the drought in the Addo area. The prolonged drought means that there is less vegetation and poorer quality vegetation available to elephants and this affects their condition. The elephant population growth rate has decreased and there has been an increase in the number of miscarriages because of the poor condition of the female elephants. For twins to survive more than one or two months after birth usually requires the mother elephant to be in excellent condition with access to enough vegetation and water to produce enough milk for two babies. 
These two elephant babies could be just associating and playing together. 
 Megan Taplin 
Communications Manager: Frontier Region 

As this little fellow says – If you two thugs are starting to sling mud, I am out of here! Going to the vervets.

Young Addo elephants at the water

Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer  
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay 

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  1. Elephants are sooo cute, especially the young ones. I must be amazing to see them so close by. Never knew they are crazy about oranges.

  2. such extraordinary animals, I hope the next generation will be able to see them in the wild. This is bucket list stuff but I'd have to win a lottery which would be difficult since I don't buy tickets.

  3. oh what a dream it would be to see them in their native habitat and not in a zoo...I too love these beautiful animals...so special.

  4. Addo truly is a magical places and located less than an hour from me. Although I don't get out there nearly enough these days I used to visit very often when I was a tour guide.

    1. My Ungardener was remembering tour guide days when we were there too.

  5. I love elephants and support the Sheldrick Foundation every year. It would be amazing to see them in their natural habitat instead of a zoo, which can be a sad place. Those babies are too cute!