Limpopo lodge finds alternative to elephant back safaris

05 July 2017 - 14:22 By Suthentira Govender

A luxurious Limpopo game lodge has replaced its controversial elephant back safaris with an alternative experience for guests including a chance to analyse the herds’ dung.

Since taking a stand against the safaris two months ago Camp Jabulani‚ which is contained within the private Kapama Game Reserve in Hoedspruit‚ has introduced a new “interactive experience” for its guests to generate an income previously derived from elephant back rides.

It costs the camp over R7-million a year to care for its herd of about 20 elephants.

Camp Jabulani is one of the first in South Africa to stop offering guests elephant back safaris‚ including rides. Botswana has also banned elephant back rides.

Last year animal welfare groups lauded on-line travel giant Trip Advisor for banning ticket sales to attractions that allow contact with wild animals‚ including elephant rides.

“The increasing international pressure against elephant back safaris‚ because of the abusive way in which a proportion of the animals are sadly trained‚ prompted this decision‚” said owner Adine Roode.

“Based on our approach to animal welfare issues‚ we are in agreement with the negative sentiments relevant to abusive methods of training.

“We took a big step in ceasing elephant back safaris this year as it was our source of income to look after our elephants‚ therefore moving into a more interactional approach‚ without losing focus on why we built the lodge in the first place; to create a safe haven for the elephant herd‚” said Roode.

But Roode admitted that “the change in programme has unfortunately resulted in a huge loss to the business over the past couple of months. Although it has never been a profit-driven business‚ we were able to look after the elephants as well as to upgrade their stable areas.

“We are optimistic that this will change over the next couple of months‚ once the industry has come to understand what the new experience entails‚ and how nothing has actually been lost through the process.

“Of course it would have been more profitable and a better business decision to use the land we currently put aside for the elephants for other commercial operations‚ but money will never supersede the passion for a species‚” said Roode.

The camp described the new experience as a “very personal and highly immersive interaction‚ where man and elephant meet one another on equal terms”.

It includes touching and feeding them‚ tracking them in their natural habitat from a safari vehicle‚ watching the baby elephants at bed time and analysing their dung.

“We have been conducting research for the last year‚ in an effort to understand the physiological and behavioural impact that human interactions have on the Jabulani herd.”

Guests are allowed to accompany rangers on foot to search for elephant dung.

- TimesLIVE