Kruger National Park Elephants


AH fanatic
Dec 18, 2015
Reaction score

There were no elephants in Kruger National Park until 1905. Then ten elephants pitched up (from Mozambique) and took up residence in the Olifants/Letaba river junction area. This was the only immigration group ever recorded. But there MUST have been more if we are to account for the rapid increase in elephant numbers after 1905.

By the 1940s Mr. James Stevenson Hamilton (Snr Game Warden) and Albert Viljoen (Botanist), recognized a rise in elephant numbers and corresponding damage to ever more numbers of large trees in the park. And in 1944 Viljoen set about demarcating large numbers of one-hectare research plots in the Satara area of the park – and the location, the species, and the numbers of every tree with a canopy spread of 15 meters or more were recorded, measured, and mapped in every one of the research sample plots. The result: the average number of these (what Viljoen called “top canopy trees”) in these research plots was 13 trees per hectare.”

The Satara area was selected for this experiment because Viljoen believes that its deciduous woodland properties were a good reflection of the deciduous woodlands growing elsewhere throughout the national park. At first, the trees were checked annually for tree damage.

What became known as the Satara Top Canopy Tree Study then began in earnest.

The park is over populated with elephant and it gets worse every year. I took my bull in 2015 on the opiate side of the Olifants River from the park. The know as the APNRs look like a war zone with few substantial trees remaining. All do to park elephants in search of food.
I am no biologist thus am not able to offer any expert opinion but I am an avid "Kruger Parker" and visit the Kruger multiple times a year , which I have been doing since 1983 . It is my observation that the growing numbers of elephants are having a major impact on the vegetation in the park , it is plain to see , even a blind man can see it .
I cannot understand that in this "closed ecosystem" that the elephant population is not being managed .
I am a biologist, and can believe, absolutely, that Kruger has too many elephants.

I know that Yellowstone National Park has WAY too many bison. I wish something could be done about that also.
The Demise of the big Parks and the rhinos except for vegetation that is suffering black rhinos are being pushed out they have no food left after the elephants are done.
The elephant population in many areas of Southern Africa is out of control. There is not a will to cull thousands of elephants but unfortunately that eventually might have to happen. I know Zimbabwe has been pretty vocal about the problem in there country.

I have never been to Kruger but the stories and pictures of the damage is horrific. And the stories from Botswana seems to be really bad there as well.

Unfortunately the solution might be a pill that no one really wants to swallow.
Given the ideal conditions for elephant, I find it difficult to believe that there weren’t any elephants in Kruger until 1905. I suppose Kruger was a fraction of its size back then.

There are too many today, no doubt about that. It’s still one of the most beautiful places in Africa though and it won’t be noticeable to people who don’t go there often. But drive along the south part of the park, along the Crocodile River and anyone will see the devastation…
Given the ideal conditions for elephant, I find it difficult to believe that there weren’t any elephants in Kruger until 1905. I suppose Kruger was a fraction of its size back then.

There are too many today, no doubt about that. It’s still one of the most beautiful places in Africa though and it won’t be noticeable to people who don’t go there often. But drive along the south part of the park, along the Crocodile River and anyone will see the devastation…
I agree with you , I too cannot believe there weren't any elephants in Kruger until 1905 , I suspect strongly that this statement is incorrect . I will try research this statement from sources more knowledgeable than myself .
I read Mr. Thomsons article again , if taken in context he also says that it must be incorrect that there weren't any elephants in the Kruger until 1905 .
I suspect strongly that before the arrival or white man , hunting and fences there must have been huge numbers of elephants in SA , especially in areas like the Kruger , the difference being that those elephant populations most probably migrated all over SA and neighboring countries . Would be interesting to know the facts .
Kruger Wasnt as big as it is now in years back.

In 1895, Jakob Louis van Wyk introduced in the Volksraad of the old South African Republic a motion to create the game reserve. The area proposed extended from the Crocodile River to the Sabi River in the north. That motion, introduced together with another Volksraad member by the name of R. K. Loveday, and accepted for discussion in September 1895 by a majority of one vote, resulted in the proclamation by Paul Kruger, on 26 March 1898, of a "Government Wildlife Park." This park would later be known as the Sabi Game Reserve.

The park was initially created to control hunting,[8] and to protect the diminished number of animals in the park.

James Stevenson-Hamilton became the first warden of the reserve in 1902.[8] The reserve was located in the southern one-third of the modern park.[9] Singwitsi Reserve, named after the Shingwedzi River and now in northern Kruger National Park, was proclaimed in 1903.[10] During the following decades all the native tribes were removed from the reserve and during the 1960s the last were removed at Makuleke in the Pafuri triangle. In 1926, Sabie Game Reserve, the adjacent Shingwedzi Game Reserve, and farms were combined to create Kruger National Park.[11]

During 1923, the first large groups of tourists started visiting the Sabie Game Reserve, but only as part of the South African Railways' popular "Round in Nine" tours. The tourist trains used the Selati railway line between Komatipoort on the Mozambican border and Tzaneen in Limpopo Province. The tour included an overnight stop at Sabie Bridge (now Skukuza) and a short walk, escorted by armed rangers, into the bush. It soon became a highlight of the tour and it gave valuable support for the campaign to proclaim the Sabie Game Reserve as a national park.[12][13]
From my reading of early settler history as well as early hunting literature, elephant were largely shot out across South Africa during the 1800's. Wildlife population was hugely reduced, notably rhino were much reduced and quagga became extinct. I believe black rhino were re-introduced into South Africa and White rhino only save through an intensive protection zone which allowed them to be re-introduced to Kruger Park.

Hunters such as Selous bypassed South Africa and went to Rhodesia/Zimbabwe area beyond simply because there were little to zero elephants left in South Africa at that time (1880-1900). So I think Kruger is a success story (maybe even a victim of its success) And I can believe that in 1905, there were no resident elephant in Kruger and they moved in when they realised it was safe.
Numbers were definitely down by the 1900's. There were elephant in the Addo valley in the 1920's. They tried to exterminate them but stopped at the last herd, which now forms the core of the Addo Elephant National Park herd. There were also elephant in the Knysna forest until and a few years ago. We grew up with tales of there being elephant in the Knysna forest. Everyone thought it was fairy tales like something out of Dalene Mathee's book "Kringe in die Bos" but researchers recently photographed 2 or 3 elephant in the forest using hundreds of trail cameras. SAN Parks declined to re-introduce more to boost their numbers. They're probably all dead now as they were thought to be older elephant.

Black and white rhino were thought to be extinct but were discovered in reasonable numbers in Zululand (Umflolozi, Hluhluwe). Dr Ian Player, older brother of golfer Gary Player, is credited with saving them by pioneering capture techniques and entering into agreements with private landowners to conserve them. He strengthened the KZN Parks and today it's a haven for black and white rhino. I met him 30 years ago at a function at our school. He was a truly remarkable man. Today South Africa has 70% of the world's rhino population. I often wonder what he would make of the current rhino situation in South Africa and Africa. He was a very practical man and I'm sure he would be behind any measure that would protect the rhino population.
Apologies if the link to the video has been shared already... Interesting but also very concerning!

Forum statistics

Latest member



Latest profile posts

tacklers wrote on ianevans's profile.
Hi Ian, I'm contemplating my first outing, leaving UK via Dubai to Africa, taking rifles as you did.

I presume it went okay for you, would you have done anything differently? Cheers, Richard East Sussex
A.A. wrote on Msprenger!'s profile.
Are you still looking for a 375 H&H?
NRA Life, ASSRA Life, GGCA Life
Sable @ the lodge this morning

Buffalo encounter this morning!