Sunday, May 30, 2010

Forest Walks

Over the past ten weeks, I have done ten consecutive Secret Elephant Forest experiences. What a privilege it is to introduce local and international nature lovers into the Knysna elephants wild and magical world. Enjoy the array of photos here taken by people who have participated on the forest experience. During the walks, we are uncovering "new" elephant paths that I had not noticed in the past. The forest experience normally takes three hours, sometimes four, and on two consecutive weekends, stretched out somehow to five hours. Neither the participants, nor I, can work out where the time goes when in the forest...(Thanks to Rob Sedgwick and Cathy Reck for the use of your photos.)

In this coming months (June) edition of Africa Geographic, there is an extensive interview style article by Tim Jackson on our findings here on the Knysna elephants. Also there was a very nice story in Cape Unplugged, a publication distributed to all international and domestic arrivals at Cape Town International. Great that over this coming World Cup month, with the international visitors pouring into the country, that this little elephant population is receiving upbeat and positive exposure. Also, in June there will be a 10 minute insert on the elephants story on South Africa's favourite wildlife/environment TV programme, 50/50.

Tuli is doing well and accompanies me every time I check the remote cameras. I saw something large and swaggering pass my cabin the other day. When I went outside to have another look, I saw it was a huge male baboon with little Tuli trailing very happily behind him. The baboon totally ignored Tuli while she was fascinated by him. She had never seen a baboon so close up before. Despite popular thought, baboons are normally quite tolerant of dogs - unless, of course, when being attacked.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Help End the Export of Wild Elephants

Message from Gareth Patterson:

I and many others involved with the preservation of African wildlife, are encouraging people to signify their support for the campaign set up by The Born Free Foundation to help end the export of wild elephants and other animals. For details please go to

Read related article below:

Zimbabwe to give North Korea baby elephants
By ANGUS SHAW, Associated Press

May 13, 2010

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Two baby elephants intended as a gift to North Korea are unlikely to survive the journey by air, Zimbabwean conservationists said Thursday.

The independent Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said the 18-month-old elephants were being held in pens in the western Hwange National Park, along with pairs of most of the park's other animal species bound for North Korea. The country is a longtime ally of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Johnny Rodgrigues, head of the task force, said elephant experts do not think the young elephants will survive the trip separated from their mothers.

No comment was immediately available from Zimbabwe's state parks and wildlife department.

Rodrigues, whose task force is an alliance of conservation groups, said all the animals — including zebra, giraffe and a range of antelope — were captured at the president's order to be given to North Korea. He cited witnesses and officials in the park.

Witnesses reported seeing capture and spotting teams, government vehicles towing cages and armed men at key watering holes with radios to call in the capture teams. The animals were being kept in quarantine in holding pens at Umtshibi camp in the park.

Rodrigues said officials in the department opposed to the captures leaked details to conservationists. They even reported some areas of the 5,500 square mile (14,000 square kilometer) Hwange National Park, the biggest in Zimbabwe, being closed to tourists and photographic safari groups.

"We fear a pair of endangered rhino in Hwange will also be included," Rodrigues said.

He said conservation groups were trying to find out from civil aviation authorities when the airlift will begin and were lobbying for support from international animal welfare groups to stop it.

Zoo conditions in North Korea, isolated by most world nations, did not meet international standards, he said.

Two rhino, a male known as Zimbo and a female called Zimba, given to the North Korean leader in the 1980s by Mugabe died only a few months after their relocation.

At the same time, other rhino given to the Belgrade zoo in the former Yugoslavia died after contracting foot rot in damp and snowy winter conditions there.

"This new exercise has to be stopped. People under orders to do it are too scared to speak out," said Rodrigues.

Last month, the government said the North Korean soccer team was headed to a training camp in Zimbabwe ahead of the FIFA World Cup in neighboring South Africa June 11 - July 11.

Opposition groups vowed to demonstrate against their presence. Troops loyal to Mugabe trained by North Koreans crushed an armed rebellion in the western Matabeleland province — where Hwange is located — and massacred tens of thousands of civilians in the 1980s.

The team's visit to Zimbabwe was in doubt. North Korea soccer officials refused to confirm their itinerary when they left Pyongyang for training in Switzerland on May 8.