A third Knysna elephant!

2002-05-03 08:41

Port Elizabeth - The myth about a lone elephant in the Knysna forest has taken on new dimensions: a third elephant has been spotted in the dense forest.

A spokesperson for the department of water affairs and forestry said on Thursday it might mean that more of these elusive animals were living in the forest.

However, it is difficult to prove since there has to be a photograph of the animal before its existence can be verified.

Game rangers were excited when members of the public recently reported elephant droppings in the vicinity of the Platbos hut along the Outeniqua hiking trail.

Jumbos must be photographed

Two officials of the forestry department then followed the mysterious elephant's trail into the Gouna woods. And there they found it: a cow with both her tusks.

In 1994, concern was raised when research found only one of the forest giants left. Author Dalene Matthee immortalised a similar animal as Oupoot in her novel Circles in the Forest.

The acting regional manager for indigenous forests of the department of water affairs and forestry, Martin Lucas, said they believed at the time that more elephants could be hiding in the forest, but could prove the existence of them only with a photograph.

"We have to photograph the elephants before they can be officially registered. The photo in 1994 was of an old cow, about 54 years old. She had only the right tusk left."

In September 2000, as second elephant, an adult male of about 20, was photographed.

Documentary on elusive tuskers

Dr Ian Whyte of the Kruger National Park says an elephant's tusks stop growing after 40 years and, therefore, the recently seen cow could not be the same one spotted in 1994.

With the help of filmmaker Mike Vincent, forestry officials managed to shoot footage of the animal. A documentary about the Knysna elephants will be broadcast on the nature programme 50/50 on SABC2 on Sunday night.

"Things are happening in the Knysna forest. In 1998, people though the Knysna elephant was on the brink of extinction. Look where we are now, four years later," said Vincent.

Lucas said the public could help to prove there were even more elephants in the forest. The area where the elephants have been spotted in the eighties and nineties has doubled during the past four years. He said the elephants had little impact on the ecological management of the forest, since the low numbers had a limited effect on the ecosystems of the forests and the fynbos.

He asked the public to phone him immediately at 044 382 5466 if they spotted an elephant.