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Elusive Knysna Forest elephants caught on film

An elephant was recently photographed in the Knysna Indigenous Forest by a trap camera set-up for leopard research, South African National Parks (SANParks) said in a statement on Thursday 9 January, 2014.

By the early 1990s, it was thought that only one elephant remained in deep in the 121 000 hectare, Knysna Indigenous Forests, located the Southern Cape, South Africa. 

A report in the Saturday Star newspaper (11 January, 2014) reported that the elephant was photgraphed four times on two separate occasions and provided the latest evidence of the existance of the fabled forest elephants, once thought to have been wiped out by ivory hunters. 

The camera was placed in the forest by the Landmark Foundation, a conservation NGO whose research involves determining the leopard population status in the Garden Route.

The footage includes photographs of an elephant whose tusks, trunk and legs are visible, SANParks said. The forehead shape as well as sex organs and ear-notch patterns were "unfortunately" not visible, making identification difficult.

A century ago, there were up to 600 elephants in the Tsitsikamma Forests near Knysna. But by the turn of the 20th century, hunters and ivory poachers had thinned out the herds of hundreds to a few score.

By 1994, SANParks officially declared that only one elephant remained.

But research in mid-2000, which included DNA analysis of dung samples, shows that there are at least five cows and possibly some bulls and calves within the 121 000 hectares of forest managed by SANParks.

SANParks said its scientists have moved away from relying on photographic techniques for population status determination "due to potential disturbances to the elephants".

"The focus of studies now focuses on non-invasive hormone studies using dung, to determine the reproductive potential of these elusive elephants," it said.

"However, opportunistic photographs such as these recent photographs taken by the Landmark Foundation’s camera trap are always a very welcome addition to SANParks’ elephant research database, existing since 1987."

Source:  South African National Parks and www.southafrica.info

Picture:  Courtesy - Landmark Foundation

Visit to the Knysna Forests:  Delegates to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation Wilderness Workshop (4-6 February 2014) will be visiting the Knysna Forests on Wednesday 5 February as part of a field trip into the forests.  

 

 

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