We' ve just received excellent news from Humane Society International's South African project partners and sanctuary members, Wildlife Land Trust SanWild. There have been two new additions to the sanctuary' s wildlife family: an elephant calf and vervet monkey! The calf was the first born to Gangile, who was rescued by SanWild staff from an imminent culling operation in 2006, while the baby vervet monkey was likewise an extremely significant event, being the first born from the HSI funded vervet monkey release project troop after their successful release approximately a year ago.
Gangile is one of a herd of elephants that were once known as Thukela Twelve' a small group of orphaned calves relocated from the infamous Kruger Park elephant culls in the early 1990s. These elephants watched their own parents and relatives be shot from above, and were only spared themselves due to being small calves at the time (with commercial value). In the aftermath of the culling, nine orphans were relocated and introduced to the Thukela Biosphere Reserve in the Estcourt District. But sadly not all survived - within four months three calves aged between 2-3 years had passed away -- they were simply too small to survive on their own without the protection and care of their family herd.
The lives of the remaining elephants took another turn in 2000, with a successful land claim seeing the Thukela Biosphere Reserve disbanded. With the successful claimants not wanting the elephants on their newly returned land, and a lack of a safe relocation destination, the owners made a decision in early 2006 to cull the elephants rather than leave them to an uncertain fate. Hlakaniphile, father of this new generation, was the first to be killed, but at the eleventh hour, as the hunters were making final preparations to cull the family members, the Thukela elephants were granted a reprieve.
A coalition of animal and environmental protection organisations got wind of the elephants' plight and negotiated a stay of execution while a safe haven was found. The end result saw the Thukela elephants released into their new home at SanWild, where they have been carefully monitored for behavioral problems, cared for and afforded every possible protection since. With such a back story you can see why we are especially thrilled to hear about Gangile' s new calf, a truly important and majestic occurrence in its own right.
Vervet Monkey's - "Verna's Troop"
The HSI funded vervet monkey release project originally saw 20 ex-captive monkeys from various locations placed together in a world first rehabilitation effort. With a soft release strategy focusing on slow group formation in a large introductory cage, studies were conducted on the release with the objectives of:
recording and comparing social behaviors and interactions within the group;
recording geographic locations of the vervet monkeys post release to analyze their movement patterns in relation to the release site; and perhaps most importantly;
determining if the group would remain together as one unit post release.
The study showed that the release (thus far) appears to have been a success, with low mortality rates; the group indicating tight and established social bonds by remaining together; and troop members being able to forage naturally for themselves.
When the vervets first arrived, they were in appalling condition and needed extensive health care before they could even be introduced to one another! They now live as a tight-knit troop and have accepted one another as family. The arrival of the first newborn is a huge indicator of the project's success, and has shown that the reformation of troops from ex-captive individuals is not only possible -- but a viable and attractive model of rehabilitation.
When the vervets first arrived, they were in appalling condition and needed extensive health care before they could even be introduced to one another. They now live as a tight-knit troop and have accepted one another as family. The arrival of the first newborn is a huge indicator of the project' s success, and has shown that the reformation of troops from ex-captive individuals is not only possible, but a viable and attractive method of rehabilitation.