KNYSNA NEWS - Diepwalle area of the Knysna section of the Garden Route National Park (GRNP) is the home for the new Legends of the Forest Museum.
The museum, now the home of the famous skeleton of the Knysna elephant (previously displayed at Knysna Tourism), houses historical artifacts and recorded history of the legends that co-existed in the Knysna Forest area during the pre- and post-colonial eras.
The display of this empirical research, donated by generous stakeholders, includes clippings of information on the history of the wood cutters, in an attempt to provide a timeline on the history what roamed and still continue to co exist in these areas.
The coexistence of the Legends of the Forest, particularly the majestic elephant species in these areas, dates back to the seventeenth century. The museum boasts a live plant display and a collection of awe-inspiring prints, illustrating some of the many plants and animals of the forest.
The Legends of the Forest Museum was recently launched by Dr Nomvuselelo Songelwa, senior general manager: GRNP.
Through this initiative, the GRNP declared its commitment to advancing cultural heritage resources, including indigenous knowledge.
Through its partnership with external stakeholders, the GRNP has sought to honour and recognise the history of the woodcutters, indigenous people and fauna that existed in the Knysna Forest areas for years.
The location of the Legends of the Forest Museum in Knysna, was chosen because of its popularity as tourist destination, but also given its rich history of being a custodian to a large tract of the largest continuous complex of indigenous forest in the land.
The conservation of these sites and the preservation of indigenous historical data form part of the conservation mission of SANParks.
Following the strategic directions of SANParks (as set out in the draft GRNP Elephant Management Plan), appropriate elephant management requires assessment of the roles that elephants play ecologically on biodiversity, and also their roles to stakeholders.
SANParks therefore plans to define the stakeholder values, perceptions and expectations regarding the Knysna elephants through public forums and surveys.
SANParks scientists are currently conducting research in an attempt to identify habitat types that were historically preferred by elephants, but may be inaccessible to them today. Once identified, the ecological roles that elephants may have played in these habitats will be assessed.
Consequences for biodiversity, due to the present absence or low numbers of elephants in previously and currently used habitats, will be considered. In addition to this research, the Scientific Research Unit of SANParks aims to gather information on the current elephant population status, elephant spatial distribution and behavioural and movement patterns. The monitoring techniques are non-intrusive on the elephants and involve gathering data on elephant signs, for example dung circumference measurements, notes on feeding signs and dung samples for elephant hormone studies.