The AERU Story

The African Elephant Research Unit (AERU) was established in October 2009 as a means of addressing the lack of research available on captive African elephants in South Africa, particularly with respect to their welfare and husbandry within their own unique environments. AERU is the first elephant research unit dedicated to optimizing the welfare of captive elephants in South Africa.


Based at the Knysna Elephant Park in the Western Cape of South Africa, AERU has since become a non-profit research trust, dedicated to the advancement and/or dissemination of information relating to all aspects of biology, behaviour and husbandry of African elephants, with particular reference to their welfare and management in captive facilities.

One of AERU’s main objectives is to collect and provide valuable information that may be used to improve the future management of captive elephants both within and beyond the borders of South Africa.

Ongoing AERU projects collect information on habituated elephants based at KEP and sister facilities. This primarily involves physiological, behavioural, and dietary data for each animal in our care. AERU researchers and volunteers collect data, not only to establish baseline values for all elephants, but also to conduct multidisciplinary research that offers new insights of value to the scientific world and management alike.

The Objectives of AERU

  • To facilitate research studies of the elephants based at the Knysna Elephant Park and other captive elephant operations.
  • To promote ethical and non-harmful research of semi-captive elephants
  • To guide elephant management operations through science.
  • To promote conservation of elephants in natural habitats.
  • Conservation through environmental education.
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