The Knysna Elephants - Open Letter to the Minister of Environment and The Minister of Tourism.

Dear Honourable Ministers

Appearing on social media is a story that a single Elephant is left in the Knysna Forest. Some conservationists say there are more than one. The argument is irrelevant!

We have known for 30 years that this population was not viable and heading for extinction and we did nothing! Actually I am incorrect, we did do something, we brought in 3 elephants, one of which died and the other 2 were removed.

Honourable Ministers, the area is thousands of hectares of fynbos, indigenous and exotic forest. The elephants use all three of these habitats. To introduce 3 elephants, Honourable Minister, is pathetic to say the least!

I stay in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park. In the early 70's, we had a mere 5 elephants in an area of 55 000 hectares.

After a series of introductions of elephants in the eighties, this population in the dry season is over 1,500 elephant. They are a major tourist attraction.

Last year Malawi relocated some 500 elephant to a new park. In the last 25 years, there have been many successful relocations of elephant. We have the knowledge, we have the expertise, we have the money, but we have no vision!

In a letter to the President, I implored him to give us a strong leadership after the passing of the Honourable Minister Molewa.

Honourable Minister, I urge you to bring the finest elephant brains in this country together to co-ordinate an elephant strategy, which sees at least 500 elephant introduced into the Knysna Forest.

You have an overpopulation of elephants in Kruger (over 22,000). You have a healthy population of elephants in Addo.

Knysna Forest is on the Garden Route. It is perfectly placed to become a major tourist attraction. The Knysna Elephants are the most southern elephants in Africa. They are unique!

They survived extreme persecution at the hands of human beings. They used to migrate down onto the beaches near Knysna. They have a unique diet, these are unique elephants and we have done nothing to help them. I find this totally unacceptable from a country that has wealth and means.

Honourable Minister, the Knysna elephants do not belong to us, they belong to the World. We in South Africa are the custodians of these elephants and we have let the world down. We have let South Africa and more importantly, we have let the elephants down!

It is not too late. I urge you to act immediately and decisively!

In the last two years, the world has lost the Northern White Rhino, the Javan Rhino, the Eastern Panther, Formosan Clouded Leopard, Alaotra Grebe, Pinta Tortoise, Spotted Green Pigeon, Japanese River Otter, Malagasy Hippopotamus, Eastern Cougar, West African Black Rhinoceros and now the Knysna Elephant. It is an indictment against the countries that allowed this and in the case of Knysna Elephant, we must take the blame.

Honourable Minister, the forest itself needs elephants for it to function successfully. Remove the elephant and you weaken the efficiency of the forest.

Critics of the introduction project will say the elephant will kill human beings. Today we have technology to contain elephants with electrical fences (I have for 20 years contained 20 free ranging tigers in an area surrounded by sheep).

Elephants need space. I urge you to design a park which allows the elephants to get to the Indian Ocean (other countries have designed underways where wild life can move under the free way) In our case underways should be designed to allow the elephants to cross the N2 to get to the beach.

Honourable Minister, the Knysna elephants are a massive tourist attraction if managed correctly. If you can realise the tourist potential, you can create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

President Ramaphosa, you made a statement early on in your Presidency that your goal is to make South Africa the finest tourist attraction in the world. I urge you Honourable President to take a personal interest in this project. If successful, this would gain huge credibility for South Africa in the eyes of the world.

In your short time as President you have achieved success in the announcement of the Transfrontier Park. I urge you to follow this success with a well thought out Knysna Elephant Project which merges private enterprise with government and brings the finest Elephant brainpower together to achieve spectacular results.

You have the Forest, you have the National Park, you have the money, now please provide the leadership.

Tread Lightly on the Earth John Varty Global Environmental Activist

You can read my blog, listen to my music, watch my videos, book Tiger and Big Cat Safaris and book JV The Campfire Singer and The Tiger Band on my website: 082 892 4680; 083 651 1600

The Tiger Band Tour

The Tiger Band's second tour is proving very successful. The Tigers have recorded songs for their first album at Bobby Johnson's Rebirth Studio and Howard Butcher's Peace of Eden Studio. Gift and Glad Khoza have had their first lesson on a full drum kit and The Tigers went tracking elephants in the Knysna forest with Gareth Patterson. One for all All for one JV

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