The original section of the park was founded in 1931, in part due to Sydney Skaife, in order to provide a sanctuary for the eleven remaining elephants in the area. The park has proved to be very successful and currently houses more than 450 elephants, 400 Cape buffalo, over 48 endangered black rhino as well as a variety of antelope species. Lion and spotted hyena has also recently been re-introduced to the area. A species unique to the area is the flightless dung beetle.
The original park has subsequently been expanded to include the Woody Cape Nature Reserve that extends from the Sundays River mouth towards Alexandria and a marine reserve, which includes St. Croix Island and Bird Island, an important breeding habitat for gannets and penguins, not to mention a large variety of other marine life. Bird Island is home to the world’s largest breeding colony of gannets – about 120,000 birds – and also hosts the second largest breeding colony of African penguins. This forms part of the plan to expand the 1,480 kmÂ² Addo National Elephant Park into a 3,600 kmÂ² Greater Addo Elephant National Park.
The expansion has meant not only that the park contains five of South Africa’s seven major vegetation zones (biomes) but also that it is probably the only park in the world to house the so-called “Big 7” (elephant, rhinoceros, lion, buffalo, leopard, whale and great white shark) in their natural habitat.
The main entrance as well as two looped tourist roads in the park are tarred while the others are graveled. There is also an additional access road through the southern block of the park feeding off the N2 highway near Colchester; it joins up with the existing tourist roads in the park.