The reintroduction of elephants at Nyosi Wildlife Reserve
by Abigail Coetzer, Safari Guide @ Nyosi
In October 2022, Nyosi Wildlife Reserve undertook a large-scale conservation project whereby we have successfully reintroduced elephants from a neighboring reserve in the Eastern Cape. This project was one of our first big steps in our conservation legacy! As Nyosi Wildlife Reserve is the first wildlife reserve that is situated close between urban towns and cities such as Gqeberha, Kariega, Despatch, Greenbushes and Kwa-Nobuhle, this ambitious project has opened up many opportunities for the future of conservation in our metro. As our world is rapidly changing, we are learning to think outside the box and are actively taking steps towards playing our role in the bigger picture in conservation!
Why did Nyosi Wildlife Reserve reintroduce elephants?
With our society evolving at a rapid pace, we believe in leveraging every opportunity we can to make a positive impact in the lives of our wildlife, by helping to alleviate the changes they face in our changing world. Reintroducing elephants at Nyosi was our first step in mending the past actions of our society, where elephants were hunted out of our lands in the 1800s. We now look to make a positive change for the wildlife in our care, and create an opportunity where our local communities can learn about our habitats and conservation stories, while reconnecting and learning from nature. This project also plays a role in fighting the ongoing drought we are faced with in the Eastern Cape. By relocating these elephants, we have helped take the pressure off of ecosystems in which wildlife are in competition for food and water.
Elephants have a vast history of existence in the Eastern Cape. It had been over a 200 years since elephants last roamed the lands of Nyosi. In the 1800’s, our native population of elephants were pushed to the bounds of extinction, as trophy hunting, ivory poaching, conflict with farmers and habitat destruction was faced as our metro evolved.
Why are elephants important?
Elephants are a keystone species! Not only are Elephants highly intelligent animals that have complex emotions and self-awareness, they are ecosystem engineers! The everyday life of an elephant plays a big role in how they shape and alter the environment. By simply moving through thick vegetation, they create a passage for other animals and provide sunlight for other plants to grow. Their dung is also filled with nutrients and seeds that get dispersed and grow new life. Even during drought they contribute, by digging deep holes to find water they create an opportunity for other animals to also access water!
Today we are able to see the serious repercussions of removing one keystone species from the natural environment. One of the many advantages of this project is learning from history. Today we can teach our communities why it is crucial to protect wildlife and encourage future generations to make a positive change for conservation.
What does this mean for conservation?
The reintroduction of these elephants at Nyosi has created a great opportunity for us to drive conservation education in our metro. We look forward to educating our visitors and local schools about wildlife conservation, while creating a family friendly environment for everyone relax, rewild and reconnect in enjoy nature. This also promotes wildlife conservation, community upliftment and eco tourism and offers job opportunities for our local community. From an ecological standpoint, we have already seen positive changes to our ecosystems. Since the elephants arrival, we have already noticed a spike in dung beetles! Dung beetles feed on dung from large herbivores such as elephants, and when creating their prizes dung balls, the soil is fertilize, encouraging more plants to grow!
How can you help?
Visit Nyosi and learn about our conservation efforts and cheetah rewilding program. Your conservation fee which you page upon entrance, as well as your game drive fees goes directly to supporting these gentle giants. We look forward to introducing your to our small family of elephants, who are thriving in their new habitat!