Go Back

Friday, 20th September 2019

The people of Port Elizabeth are fiercely proud of the Addo Elephant National Park because it was partly due to their agitation in those far off, early days, that contributed to the establishment of the Addo Elephant national park in 1931. An area of approximately 2000 hectares of what was then considered the inhospitable Addo bush, was set aside for the preservation of the last remaining 11 elephants from a population of 100’s of thousands before the arrival of the early Europeans. The remaining animals were in a constant state of shock and terror.

Today the Addo Elephant National Park is the 3rd largest national park in the country and is second only to the mighty Kruger in terms of tourist numbers. The park’s southern entrance gate near the coastal villages of Colchester and Cannonville is a mere 35 minute drive from the Port Elizabeth city centre.

I consider the Addo Park to be a truly mature adult in terms of South African Game reserves and I have had the privilege to experience and witness the park expand from those early days, when the legendary bull elephant, Hapoor, used to rule the elephant population with sharp, cold Ivory. Hapoor reigned supreme in those early days.


Today the elephant population numbers are close to 700 free roaming African Elephants. However, not only elephants roam free in Addo, it is a true Big 5 game reserve. In fact, Addo lays claim to being home to the Big 7 where the Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Black Rhino, Lion and the shy Leopard are complimented by their marine brethren in the waters of Algoa Bay. Here the great whales, the Southern Right and the Humpback whales, are seasonal visitors together with the Great White Sharks. There are thousands of Bottlenose Dolphins and many more and diverse species that occupy the rich waters of Algoa Bay. To add to Algoa Bay’s richness, the marine birds, in particular the African Penguin and Cape Gannet, have their breeding colonies in our Bay.

As the Addo Elephant National Park has expanded, the management of the park has periodically seen fit to re-introduce species into the park. These would have historically occurred in these sub-tropical thickets, mountains and the semi desert plains of the Little Karoo, all of which are represented in the park today. So gradually we have seen the reintroduction of Black Rhino, Lion, Zebra, Red hartebeest and others. Policy dictates that no extra limital species (species that did not occur in the area in historical times) may occur within a national park, although some animals simply do not agree with this treatise and have been known to wander in from neighbouring private game reserves, much to the delight of the tourists.


Because the Addo elephants were all from the same gene pool of just 10 Elephants (One of the original 11 died) it was necessary to introduce additional genes from other populations. In 2000

8 bull elephants from the Kruger Park were selected, darted and loaded onto trucks and driven the 1100 odd kilometers down to Addo to contribute through breeding with the local females to the genetic diversity of this bottle neck population. It’s a slow process but a process that is already starting to show dividends and many of the young bull elephants in Addo today can be seen to be growing stronger ivory, some with the typical Kruger ivory, robust wide spreading tusks.

This brings us to the most recent introduction. To broaden the genetic diversity still further, the Addo staff approached the management of the Tembe elephant park in the far northern border area of KwaZulu/Natal. The Tembe Elephant Reserve is well known as a reservoir for large tusked elephants. It was agreed that Addo would be able to acquire three large bulls to add to the Addo population.

A 35 year old bull elephant weighing in at approximately 6 tons, and carrying some serious ivory, arrived in Addo after a long and cramped journey from northern KwaZulu/Natal and was quietly off loaded in the park with little fanfare to announce his arrival.

After being released he headed off in a westerly direction and wasn’t seen by anyone except some of the park staff on their daily patrols. Then, on the 17th of September, Etta from the Addo Dung Beetle River Lodge, a member of PEMBBA, was on tour with guests, traveling along one of the many gravel roads in the park, when she spotted a large bull ellie wandering slowly down the middle of the road towards her. This is by no means an unusual situation in Addo. Having stopped to allow the bull to approach the vehicle and walk on by, the guests waited with bated breath as the huge creature approached, but instead of carrying on past the vehicle, this elephant decided to lean up against the bus and check things out a little more closely. Tembe, as he has been named, had just not read the Addo rule book and proceed to give the tourist in Etta’s bus a memory of a lifetime. Please view the meeting between Tembe and the Addo Dung Beetle tour bus herewith.


Welcome to Addo, Tembe, we look forward to meeting your friends from Tembe Elephant Reserve when they arrive.

Text by Alan of Alan Tours; Video by Etta of Dungbeetle Tours