The Knysna Elephant Park (est. 1994) was the first facility in South Africa to house and care for orphaned African elephants. Over the last twenty years, the park has cared for and raised more than forty elephants. These animals include relocated animals, orphaned calves, elephants rescued from culls and ex-circus animals. Some have become part of the resident herd, others have moved onto other reserves and facilities in the Western and Eastern Cape, depending on their personalities, bonds with other animals and welfare needs.
The present KEP herd numbers ten – the largest domesticated matriarchal herd in the country. Our style of management offers guests the opportunity to get up close and personal with our elephants, on elephant terms. Responsible and educational interactions allow guests to appreciate the awe-inspiring presence of these animals, but still give the elephants space and freedom to choose where they want to move, what they want to eat and who they want to interact with. There are no fences to spoil the close encounter and our environment encourages elephants to exhibit natural behaviours.
Elephant Experiences include our Nature Walk; where you can join us on a beautiful walk through our Park with the opportunity of experiencing our herd of 10 elephants, all while continuing to practice social distancing, our Meet our Herd Tours; where you have an opportunity to feed and walk among our herd and our Elephant Walks, as you join our guides for a personal experience as you follow in the footsteps of these remarkable animals.
The Elephant Nature Lodge is built within the elephant sleeping quarters, and offers guests the unique opportunity to spend the night with our herd of African elephants. Enjoy an “elephant sleep-over” in unique accommodation overlooking the boma; or spend the evening relaxing in the communal lounge, watching the elephants snooze…
The tourism industry has recently seen a growing trend within the wildlife sector, where tourists are being made aware of the need to view animal activities and attractions they may visit during their holidays, in a different light. All over the world, animal welfare organisations and animal rights groups are asking tour companies and tourists to think carefully about the ethics and responsibilities associated with many of these wildlife tourism ventures.
Many of these non-governmental organisations have focused on the use of elephants for tourism purposes, particularly in Asia, where elephant trekking is a very popular tourism activity. The ‘traditional’ methods of breaking and training Asian elephants are well known and have been highly publicised. These methods use a variety of cruel and abusive methods to ‘break’ the animals, so that they can be ridden and controlled. In many cases the animals are kept in poor conditions, tethered for long periods of time and often isolated from other elephants. In the past, many tourists visiting elephant facilities in Asia have been unaware of these training methods. However, recent awareness campaigns and an emphasis on responsible tourism has served to bring these issues to the fore; and, as such, tourists are now more aware of their choices; and how these choices may contribute to animal welfare.
Here, at the Knysna Elephant Park, we support and welcome these changing trends – increased awareness of the welfare requirements of animals in captive situations can only have a positive impact on the animals in these tourism facilities; and the way in which their owners and managers care for them.
Comparisons between the Knysna Elephant Park and facilities in Asia, can only serve to highlight the positive and responsible manner in which the Park operates its elephant encounters and interactions. Our tourism activities are conducted ethically and always with elephant welfare as a top priority. If ever we identify an area where welfare may be compromised, our flexible style of management allows for immediate notification, so that changes can be made to benefit the elephants.
For twenty-six years, the Park’s primary objective has been to offer elephants in the need the chance of a new and better home; and we have worked tirelessly to achieve this goal. We believe that the Knysna Elephant Park now stands as an example of how a responsible and best practice facility should be run, illustrating optimal standards of husbandry and welfare.
✓ On-Site Research Unit
✓ Volunteer Programme
✓ Interpretation Centre
✓ Restaurant and Playground
✓ Curio Shop
✓ Photography Department