Just over a year after the reintroduction of elephants to the Camdeboo Plains, Samara Private Game reserve have two elephant bulls to complete the first herd in the region in about 150 years.
This follows the successful release of six female elephants into the reserve in October 2017 – a historic translocation in itself. Crucially, the translocation of the two bulls will enhance the social structure of Samara’s elephant population.
“We have been so pleased with how the founder herd of female elephant have settled at Samara. We monitor their behaviour and movements closely, with a full-time monitor provided by the NGO Elephants, Rhinos & People, who also co-funded the translocation to Samara and the satellite collar on the sub-matriarch," says Sarah Tompkins of Samara.
ERP’s monitor at Samara has been training two interns, graduates of the SACT Tracker Academy, whose knowledge of elephant ecology and behaviour has progressed tremendously over the past year” says Tompkins.
“We have been monitoring the female elephants at Samara for a year now”, says Ida Hansen, ERP representative. “It will be very interesting to see how they react to the two bulls and how the bulls settle in at Samara”.
The knowledge that elephant bulls are highly social creatures informed the decision to introduce two bulls so that they could enjoy each other’s company.
“The presence of bulls is likely to bring a new dynamic to the reserve, and one which we are excited to witness as we continue to restore this breathtaking ecosystem.”
The two bulls arrived at Samara after a 24-hour journey, ably transported by drivers Koos and Skukuza, part of Kester Vickery’s team at Conservation Solutions. The entire operation was guided and overseen by elephant translocation experts Elephants, Rhinos & People (erp.ngo), who accompanied the elephants on their journey in a support vehicle.
Sarah, who founded Samara Private Game Reserve with her husband Mark 21 years ago, has long held a vision of restoring the area to its original state. “Before early farmers and settlers eradicated the Karoo’s wildlife, it boasted a wonderfully rich biodiversity, and was home to species like cheetah, rhino, Cape lion, springbok and elephant,” Sarah comments. Thanks to the Tompkins’ dedication, and the conservation ethos which remains at Samara’s heart, their vision is steadily becoming a reality.
“The population of African elephants is in a state of crisis, having declined by an alarming 30% in just 10 years. To safeguard the future of the species, there is a need to manage elephants as part of meta-populations; a group of spatially-separated populations between which translocations can take place to ensure genetic diversity and to establish founder populations in areas where elephants previously occurred but have since been eradicated,” says Tomkins stating, "Samara is committed to playing its part in the conservation of this iconic gentle giant."