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Invisible elephants?

"Matriarch", "Strange foot" and "Youngster" are the names given to 3 elephants known to live in South Africa's forests and "fynbos country on the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains".

In the late 1990s the Knysna elephant population was described as functionally extinct. This follows a sad history of their demise. In 1902 there were an estimated 30 to 50 elephants in the main forest. By 1910 the number had sunk to fewer than 20. In 1920 the estimate dropped to single digits at just 7 elephants remaining.

In 1969 - 1970 a survey located 11 elephants and by 1980 the numbers dropped back to just 2 - a cow and a calf.

In 1989 a new calf was discovered. Since the 1990s however, it has been commonly believed that only a lone matriarch has survived.

In 2001, wildlife expert Gareth Patterson found the spoor of 3 elephants. Together with film maker Mark van Wijk he has conducted a search for the world's southerly-most elephant population. The pair has trekked thousands of kilometers and deployed remote cameras in search of their quarry.

On several occasions fresh scats were collected. Out of 35 samples, DNA analysis has shown there to be at least 5 different individuals, one of them a bull.

Other evidence of elephant activity includes the presence of footprints and signs of elephants feeding on the foliage of trees and digging.

Their film, "The Search for the Knysna Elephant" premiers in South Africa on Sunday.

On a personal note, I find it fascinating that the world's largest land mammal might be surviving in a small pocket, isolated from all other populations without any confirmed sighting or record of numbers for so long.

The pair also employed the help of 2 expert trackers in their quest, and the film was "commissioned in partnership by the Natural History Unit Africa and Animal Planet."

Now ... if Animal Planet is reading - I'll have 2 expert trackers, a fleet of cameras and plane tickets to Tasmania please. Thylacine, here we come!

Image: Painting of an African elephant, by Gareth Patterson, from the Kynsna Elephants website

Sources: http://news.za.msn.com/local/article.aspx?cp-documentid=149278200, http://www.garethpatterson.com/Elephants/elephants.htm

Knysna elephant from South Africa

Posted by: admin on 21st Aug 2009 09:09 AM
Updated by: admin on 21st Aug 2009 09:13 AM
Expires: 01st Jan 2014 12:00 AM

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