Samara: Reintroducing elephant bulls to the Karoo
We recently completed the translocation of two elephant bulls to Samara Private Game Reserve, aspiring for a viable population of elephants in their former range and ecosystem.
This is how it all came to pass… About 20 years ago, on a safari in South Africa, Mark and Sarah Tompkins learnt of the magical Karoo. Soon thereafter they acquired a little piece of this magic place themselves. A bit of land near the town of Graaff-Reinet. With patience, passion and expert advice they started to restore the utilised farmland back to the bush it had once been. As the land improved with rest, they slowly started to restock the area with the species that were once there: black wildebeest, mountain zebra, plains zebra, springbok, and the cheetahs that Samara Private Game Reserve is now famous for.
In 2017, Sarah and her daughter Isabelle contacted Dereck to see if we could help them return the largest of the original species, known across Africa as the gentle giants - the African savanna elephant.
Palaeontological records show that elephants used to roam in this region. Tusks, bones and teeth have been found in the area. Once again, these stomping grounds were to become inhabited by the gentle giants, that were eradicated from the area some 100 years ago by an influx of hunters wielding firearms and killing for sport.
The reintroduction marked the start of the partnership between Samara and ERP. The first part of this relationship was the relocation of a family group of female elephants, known as the N-family, to Samara last year. We have now completed the second part - the relocation of two elephant bulls to Samara.
Planning the relocation of the two elephant bulls to Samara was a bit of a struggle. The original elephant management plan at Samara only allowed for the reintroduction of one bull - not two bulls. However, as elephant bulls are a lot more social than people tend to think, ERP encouraged Samara to amend their management plan to allow for two bulls. Sarah and Isabelle worked tirelessly and with determination on this.
It also could not just be any elephant bulls. Following the advice of various experts and of ERP, they searched for a mature elephant bull in his mid-30s and a younger male companion. It was important to get two bulls that were of the right ages and were known to associate with each other.
After exploring options at different reserves, two suitable bulls were found at Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. Following nerve-racking weeks of permit applications, waiting and frequent phone calls, Ida was sent to the office in Bisho, Eastern Cape, to help speed up the process and get the permit through the last hoops. Samara’s last permit was finally issued on the 8th of November 2018, just in time but with none to spare.
With Samara’s permit in hand, all that remained was for Phinda to get their permits approved in KwaZulu-Natal. This was done in record time. A week later, on the 15th of November 2018, Simon Naylor, Reserve Manager at Phinda, got the last necessary permit. This left us with only 24 hours to sort out the final logistical challenges. The elephant bulls were being translocated two days later on Saturday the 17th of November. If the translocation was delayed any further, it would have to be delayed to 2019. It is not responsible to move elephants in the heat of the summer.
Read our next blog post that takes you through the capture, the transport and the release of the two elephant bulls
Check out the video from the translocation of the N-family in October 2017 here:
Follow us on social media!
Facebook: Elephants, Rhinos & People