Historic return of elephants to Bellevue Forest Reserve


A herd of elephants from the Addo National Park found a new home in the Eastern Cape at the end of August.

Two adult elephant cows – each with a calf – as well as three young bulls, have been relocated to the Bellevue Forest Reserve near Paterson, where their ancestors once roamed freely.

It was a day they had waited a long time for and a dream come true for Bellevue’s owner, Loodt Buchner, “because now elephants can finally set foot again in their historic home area”.

“The reserve’s original name is Olifantskop and once upon a time elephants roamed freely through the green mountains and valleys full of richly varied Albany thickets.

“Guests now staying at Bellevue’s Elephants Lodge will have the privilege of seeing the latest arrivals up close,” says Buchner.

The private game reserve of 2,500 ha was a temporary home decades ago for two elephants – the infamous Hapoor and Bellevue – who escaped from the nearby Addo Elephant National Park.

“Today, it is entirely possible that their own descendants will once again set foot in Bellevue,” says Buchner.

SANParks donated the elephants and they were moved by the highly experienced wildlife capture specialists, Conservation Solutions, a South African team led by Kester Vickery.

The cost of the project was borne by the Wildlife Emergency Fund. Founded by the Americans John and Mary Lee Malcolm and their son, Andrew, this internationally renowned animal charity, which works with Dereck Milburn, South African director of the UK-based Aspinall Foundation, regularly supports wildlife conservation initiatives.

Addo has a proud history of elephant conservation and hosts a healthy and safe population of one of Africa’s most iconic animal species.

According to Buchner, the relocation of the magnificent animals is a boundary-pushing event in the evolution of Bellevue Forest Reserve.

“Relocation between reserves inside and outside South Africa is an established practice to ensure genetic diversity and expand the available habitat. It is our vision to be part of the bigger picture, which is shared by many conservationists and neighboring property owners.

“The Eastern Cape is rich in tourism potential and is an excellent malaria-free wildlife destination. We are extremely grateful for the support of SANParks and the Wildlife Emergency Fund, together with the assistance of many other veterinarians and specialists, which allows us to move closer to realizing our joint vision.”

Nick de Goede, manager of the Addo Elephant National Park, is delighted with the success of the relocation project.

“Moving so many animals at the same time is a first for Addo. We have only relocated individual animals from the park in the past. I am grateful that the project was so successful.”