Traffic signs warning motorists about elephants along the N2 between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are rather optimistic: there are few indigenous pachyderms left and, with such a large forest, sightings are rare. But such is the mystique attached to the Knysna elephants that locals tend to be a little cagey about just how few they number. By 1860, the thousands that had formerly wandered the once vast forests were down to five hundred, and by 1920 (twelve years after they were protected by law), there were only twenty animals left; the current estimate is three. Loss of habitat and consequent malnutrition, rather than full-scale hunting, seems to have been the principal cause of their decline.

The only elephants you’re guaranteed to see near Knysna are at the Knysna Elephant Park or the Elephant Sanctuary, both near Plettenberg Bay.

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