The Knysna Elephant Park (est. 1994) was the first facility in South Africa to house and care for orphaned African elephants. Today, it has become a world class facility, having 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 the 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 Daily Guided Tours (departing from reception every 30 minutes), as well as Breakfast Picnic Walks in the morning and Elephant Walks in the afternoon, Exclusive Safaris, Sundowner Group Packages, as well as Sleepovers in the Elephant Lodge. Our beautiful Lapa offers a unique venue for weddings and other functions. No reservations are necessary for daily tours, but bookings are essential for all other elephant encounters.
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 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.
Contributing to Elephant Care:
Visitors to the park are privileged to have a personal encounter with our gentle giants, and leave having gained a new-found respect for these animals, as well as a better understanding of the African elephant and its plight across the continent. Most importantly, by visiting the Park and experiencing our elephant herd, guests make a direct contribution to elephant husbandry and care. Visitors to the Park enable us to give our elephants the best possible facilities, nutrition and care. They also allow us to offer other elephants in need the chance of a better life.
The park is open 365 days a year to visitors, from 09h00 to 15h00 daily.
Early morning and late afternoon walks are conducted at 07h30, 15h30 and 16h30 by reservation only.
- On-Site Research Unit
- Volunteer Programme
- Interpretation Centre
- Restaurant and Playground
- Curio Shop
- Photography Department