Situated in the Eastern Cape, just a short distance from nearby coastal city Port Elizabeth, the Addo Elephant National Park is the third largest of South Africa’s wildlife conservation areas. Spanning 1640 square kilometers, Addo was originally founded in an effort to save the remaining 11 elephants in the region, and has garnered such success that the population now hovers around an overly healthy 450. In addition to these majestic giants, the park is also home to approximately 400 cape buffalo, 48 endangered black rhinos and more recently lion and spotted hyena. As the population of elephant and rhinoceros mega-vores increases, certain plant species become subject to over-grazing and trampling, with a real threat of extinction, and thus the re-introduction of top carnivores has emerged as a requirement for sustainability.
After crossing through the main entrance to Addo, our giant truck looped its way through two tourist tracks, and provided a short but pleasant welcome safari to the park. As anticipated, we met several kudu, a flock of wild ostrich, some Pumbaa’s and Timon’s, and to my great enjoyment, a spotted black-backed jackal. Perhaps the funniest creature we encountered was not a mammal at all, but instead a rather large, flightless insect. The flightless dung beetle (Circellium bacchus) is endemic to South Africa, and Addo is one of only two locations where it still survives. As a consequence of being flightless, it has low breeding capacity and low dispersability. Its survival is strictly dependent on the feces of large vertebrates (eg. elephant and buffalo) on which it feeds. YUM!
Once settled in to camp (which featured a swimming pool!), I was admittedly getting close to my wits end with annoying girl, and in an effort to chill out a bit, I took a much-needed break from the group to explore camp on my