"Like a mighty king it stood towering above the white alder and mountain saffron, the stinkwood, assegai and hard pear. As if God had planted it long before the others, its giant root anchored it to the ground like giant arms." These lyrical words have been translated from Afrikaans into fourteen other languages. Mathee's forest novels: Circles in the forest; Fiela's child and The Mulberry Forest, have thus reached around the world, even to Iceland.
But what of Big Foot, the doomed bull elephant of Circles in the Forest? Could he have ripped out this tree with his enormous trunk, leaving its carcass across our path? Sadly Big Foot has disappeared along with the rest of the elephants who roamed the the forest and fynbos areas in the southern Cape in the late nineteenth century. The elephant population declined rapidly as increasing numbers of woodcutters and hunters settled in the area. By 1908 the population status was estimated at 20 individuals, dwindling further to an estimated 11 by 1970. By 1980 a mere 3 individuals were believed to still roam the area.
In 1994, three young female elephants where introduced from the Kruger National Park in an attempt to sustain the presence of elephants in the Knysna forest area. The translocated elephants did not remain within the largely forested conservation area but progressively chose to range in more open habitat on private land, and were eventually relocated to the Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape.