The Knysna Elephant Park was founded in 1994 by husband and wife Ian and Lisette Withers. Ian’s family had lived and worked in the Knysna area for several generations and Ian himself grew up surrounded by the legends of the forest and the famous Knysna forest elephants. In the evenings, around the fire, Ian’s grandfather would tell stories of his encounters with “Big Feet” and how his great-grandfather built the road passes along the tracks, made by these elephants through the Groot River and Bloukrans ravines and forests.
Sadly, by the time Ian and Lisette settled on their farm just outside Knysna, the mysterious forest elephants were almost extinct, with a mere five animals thought to be still alive. Then, in 1994, Ian and Lisette heard of two young elephant calves, rescued from a cull in the Kruger National Park, that were in need of a safe home. Would this be an opportunity to bring elephants back to Knysna? Could this young elephant couple help to highlight the protection of elephants in the nearby forests?
And so the foundations of the Knysna Elephant Park were built on the struggles of the elephants in the Knysna Forest. Harry and Sally arrived at the Park in October 1994. Ian and Lisette hardly realised how this small family would grow. The word to spread fast throughout South Africa: The Knysna Elephant Park was a place that could offer elephants in need of a good home. Twenty years later, more than forty elephants have passed through the gates of the Park; and the park has developed into a world class elephant sanctuary.
The large family have welcomed thousands of visitors over the years, giving them unique insight into the lives of elephants. Guests are privileged to have a close-up and personal encounter with these gentle giants, and leave having gained a healthy respect for these wonderful animals, as well as a better understanding of the African elephant and his quandary across the continent.
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