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Historic return of elephants to Bellevue Forest Reserve

History was made on the 22nd of August 2023, as the first ever family group of elephants was successfully captured and moved from the Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.

Two adult females, each with two female calves, along with three young bulls, were translocated to the privately owned Bellevue Forest Reserve near Paterson., on land where their forefathers once freely roamed.

It has been a long-awaited day and the realisation of a dream for Bellevue’s owner, Loodt Buchner, as elephants are finally reintroduced into their historic home range.

The original name of the area is Olifantskop (literally ‘Elephants Head”), and elephants once freely roamed these verdant mountains and valleys full of richly diverse Albany thicket. Now, guests staying at Bellevue’s aptly named Elephants Lodge will have the privilege of viewing the latest arrivals at close quarters.

Decades ago, the 2500ha private game reserve was actually a temporary ‘home’ to two well-known errant pachyderms who habitually escaped the nearby Addo Elephant National Park boundaries – the infamous Hapoor, and the aptly named Bellevue. Today, it is entirely possible that their own offspring will once again call Bellevue home.

The elephants were donated by South African National Parks (SANParks) and translocated from Addo to Bellevue by the highly experienced wildlife capture specialists Conservation Solutions, a South African team led by Kester Vickery, who have successfully moved thousands of these gentle giants across the continent to date.

 

Project costs were borne by the Wildlife Emergency Fund, founded by United States donors John and Mary Lee Malcolm and their son Andrew, together with Dereck Milburn, South African Director of the UK-based  Aspinall Foundation, an internationally renowned animal charity organisation that regularly supports wildlife conservation initiatives including return of captive-bred animals to the wild, animal rescues, emergency interventions and translocations.

Addo has a proud record of elephant conservation and maintains a healthy and secure population of one of Africa’s most iconic animal species. Translocation between reserves within and beyond South Africa is an established practice to ensure genetic diversity, to expand their available habitat, and to restore original ancient elephant corridors.

Says Bellevue owner Loodt Buchner: “This elephant introduction is a magnificent, ground-breaking event in the evolution of Bellevue Forest Reserve. It is our vision to be part of the greater picture, shared by many conservationists and neighbouring property owners, to restore and expand lands under protection for the benefit of both wildlife species and our communities. The Eastern Cape is rich with tourism potential as a prime malaria-free wildlife destination. We are extremely grateful for the support of SANParks and the Wildlife Emergency Fund, along with the assistance of numerous other veterinarians and specialists, in enabling us to move closer to realising our joint vision”.

Addo Elephant National Park Manager, Nick de Goede, was delighted with the success of the capture operation, saying that “Moving this many animals at once is a first for Addo, as we have only previously moved individual animals from the Park.”

The animals were released peacefully onto the lush Bellevue lands full of prickly pear, a delicacy for the pachyderms that they immediately set upon feasting with great enthusiasm as they explored their New Haven. They have settled in well along with the resident buffalo, giraffe, zebra, kudu, eland and numerous other wildlife species on Bellevue.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Contact Loodt Buchner 0844750007

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