Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa
Situated in Maputaland, the north-eastern region of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, adjoining the Mozambique border, Tembe Elephant Park is home to over 200 African elephants and a rich diversity of wildlife - including black rhino, white rhino, buffalo, hippo, lion, leopard and various antelope species including the endangered Suni.
Based in a rare Sand Forest, this untamed African game reserve in the Kingdom of the Zulu also offers excellent birding with more than 340 bird species recorded in the park making it one of the best bird areas in South Africa.
The history of Tembe Elephant Park
Two hundred years ago great elephant herds roamed freely on the African plains. The elephants migrated according to the weather and the seasons. If there was a shortage of vegetation or water in one area, they moved to another.
The area now known as Tembe Elephant Park was, until recently, relatively wild with very few people and no major fences around it except the northern international border fence. This fence was no obstacle for the elephants and they crossed freely into Mozambique.
Tembe Elephant Park was proclaimed in October 1983 and the south, west and eastern borders were fenced with game proof and electric fences. This still allowed for the free movement of elephant and game north into Mozambique. Due to a civil war in Mozambique and the resultant increase in poaching, the northern boundary of Tembe was fenced in 1989 preventing any further elephant movement north.
Conservation and the elephant herds
Conservation in parks like Tembe is no longer about protecting the elephant; it is now about protecting and enlarging the habitat in which they can live.
Tembe, like a lot of game parks in South Africa, is facing the problem of an over-population of elephant. In order to prevent a recent culling order being carried out it is critical that more land is obtained to cater for the elephants needs. For this to become a reality a sustainable economy, based on ecotourism, needs to be established and grown.
Tembe tribal leaders
The park falls within the Tembe Tribal ward and Chief Mzimba Tembe donated the 30000 hectare (60000 acres) of land for the formation of this game reserve.
Today, his successor, Chief Israel Tembe, and his Indunas (tribal advisors), are following in Chief Mzimba Tembe's footsteps. They appreciate the value and importance of the elephants - for today and for the future.
Although his tribesmen are poor, Chief Israel Tembe has offered to make 20000 additional hectares (over 40000 acres) available to expand the Tembe National Park.
A Transfrontier park is being planned which will link Tembe with Ndumo, a neighbouring park in SA and Maputo Elephant Park in Mozambique which together will form a big park. This means that the fence between Mozambique and Tembe (SA) will be dropped, old elephant migration routes therefore re-opened and the Tembe elephants will re-unite with their free-roaming cousins on the other side of the fence in Mozambique.
The success of these plans also depends, to a great extent, on the ability of the park to create a sustainable economy through ecotourism. Visitors and volunteers will all play a vital role in helping this community realise their plans.
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For more information about Tembe, visit the following:
The Tembe Trust web site
Tembe web site
Download tourist brochure
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