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Helping elephants in captivity or distress to gain the freedom they deserve.


Brett Mitchell

The Elephant Reintegration Trust (ERT) is an NGO created to assist any elephant in need. This wonderful initiative was established by four passionate individuals with the main objective to acquire land for the establishment of a reserve ensuring a permanent safe haven for elephants in distress from any background. The focus being on captive elephants where they can be reintegrated back into the wild to live a life with freedom and dignity.


James Lowe

ERT has a research component, with its’ current Greater Welfare Project, collecting data across nine reserves, with more to be added to research and develop crucial welfare parameters for wild elephant on fenced reserves in South Africa. Part of the project is the write up and publication of the reintegration of captive elephants back into a wild system to ensure that sound scientific data exists showing that this is possible and should be the aim for all captive elephants where possible.


We delve in a little deeper to find out more about the NGO.


Who And What Is The Elephant Reintegration Trust?

The Elephant Reintegration Trust has been established by four passionate individuals with the vision and dream of developing an elephant refuge reserve in South Africa which will provide a secure wild environment for elephants in need - particularly retired, commercially used elephants from various captive environments. Our mission is to establish and maintain a refuge and reintegration reserve for elephants from any background.

When Was the ERT Founded?

ERT was officially founded in July 2017.

What are The Objectives of the ERT? Our main objectives are:

To establish an Elephant Trust Fund equipped to address the funding of rehabilitating and reintegrating commercial elephants, and elephants whose wellbeing is compromised.

To develop an elephant refuge reserve in South Africa which will provide a secure wild environment to manage full reintegration projects back into the wild - where these previously captive elephants can live out their remaining years, with dignity, as wild elephants.

  • Reuniting related individuals that have been separated across captive facilities over the years. The re-establishing of family bonds will assist with the reintegration process due to the emotional support it provides.

  • To facilitate education and awareness initiatives around elephant biology and well-being for conservation authorities, researchers, local communities, and tourists alike.

  • Playing a role in expanding existing rangelands for elephant movement, with the potential to create elephant corridors to suitable adjacent conservation areas.

  • Currently our work includes ongoing research like the Greater Welfare Project (which ends in April 2024).

Specific projects include collaring events, translocations as well as interventions to assist an individual elephant.

Brett Mitchell

What Is The Plight of Captive Elephants in South Africa?

Since 2002, when the South African tourist industry allowed for the establishment of elephant-back safari operators within in its borders, the number of elephants in captivity in South Africa rose to approximately 120 and now remains at approximately 90 individuals. Some of these elephants are involved in filming and entertainment, elephant interactions with the public and elephant back safaris.


Several of the captive elephant populations were brought into South Africa from Zimbabwe, where the concept of elephant back safaris had been established for a number of years prior to being trans-located to South Africa. Many of the captive elephants share a similar history of being captured during cull operations conducted in Zimbabwe in the 1970’s and 80’s.


From the early 2000’s until around 2013, the elephants sought for captivity within the confines of South Africa were sourced for the most part under unethical circumstances, mainly through the capture of wild elephants for captivity and commercial gain. The captive elephant industry brought with it several controversies over the years, where the ethics of operating elephants commercially is questioned in various formats.


Today the reality of operating with captive elephants has finally realised its potential. The establishment of the elephant Norms and Standards by the government prohibits the sourcing of more elephants for this industry from the wild. Lack of correct operating skills is also a major inhibiting factor when it comes to fostering elephants and establishing and maintaining commercial operations.


As the elephant back safari industry is a relatively new concept in Africa, most elephants involved in the elephant back safari industry were sub-adult elephants, ideal for operating safaris as they are easier to train and manage at this age. However, now many of these same elephants are reaching a mature adult stage where they are harder to handle and pose a greater threat to the people handling and interacting with them.

An alternative is needed for elephants in situations like these.


Currently, there are approximately 90 captive elephants in South Africa. Without any long-term provision for the ethical retirement of commercial elephants, these animals remain confined to captivity when no longer used. In more extreme cases, as these retired animals are no longer economically viable to support or become hard to handle and dangerous, they are euthanised – a sad end to elephants who had no choice but to dedicate their lives to being ambassadors for their species, for the sake of human entertainment.

Tammy Eggeling

Some of these elephants are living in dire captive conditions across the country and there is a crucial need to rescue them and provide them with the necessary health and mental care as soon as possible. Therefore, we believe the establishment of a reserve for this purpose is an urgent necessity.


Full reintegration back into a wild system should be the only ethical and humane management strategy for current captive elephants. On land where they can roam without interference, free to choose where to go and whom to associate with; to enjoy the luxury of a river, open space, and dense vegetation. A place free from human control and exploitation.

Tammy Eggeling.

Our vision is to develop a reserve that is a safe haven for elephants in South Africa, providing a secure wild environment for retired, commercially used elephants from various captive backgrounds, including abused and compromised elephants. These elephants will be reintegrated back into the wild where they can live out their remaining years, with dignity, as free elephants; or where necessary receive care and recover from the negative impact of captivity.

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Banking Details: Elephant Reintegration Trust Nedbank Branch code: 198 765 Current Account number: 115 848 6391 Swift Code: NEDSZAJJ


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