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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Visiting Elephants: A priviledge at Camp Jabulani

I had the most enriching experience last week at Camp Jabulani. 'Camp Jabulani' is the extraordinary tale of an orphaned baby elephant, and a herd of Zimbabwean elephants which once faced a grissly fate. Paul Coetze took us to visit the wild but trained 16 elephants under his charge.

This had to be another one of life’s privileges. Out in the open are elephants just eating minding their own business but with handlers around to ward off lions etc. A 28 year old bull Sebakwe (of Amarula Cream advertisement fame) allows us to slowly walk up to him and start to talk to and touch him. Touching his trunk, his tusks (he is left handed/tusked-uses his left tusk the most), then his ears front and back, feeling the blood vessels, then around his face and eye. His eye was over 7 feet off the ground. Elephants are big seen from a vehicle but from the ground they reach way up into the sky. In training these animals Paul Coetze works on the reward system. So when we had run out of adrenalin Sebakwe was given a handful of pellets, into his trunk which he then gently blew into his mouth. We were able to touch his tongue and check the wear on his second set of molars of which elephants get 6 sets in their 60 odd years of afterwhich they then wither away and die at about 65 or so.

Little Limpopo a 2 year old female came forward for a chance free handful of pellets. She was asked to lie down so as to earn her reward but was so hungry and excited that she slid along the ground half on her side and half on her stomach while reaching out with her trunk desperately for the pellets. Just as a teenager working a point would do.

Our next encounter was with Mambo, a 6 week old baby male -300 pounds in weight- he came to show us how he could carry a stick in his mouth. Then he showed how clever he was by lifting his front left foot, holding down the stick while trying to take off the bark to eat. Much laughter as he took us through his routine. Realised we were impressed by his skills he then, just like a young child started, showing off to the crowd. Walking backwards and deliberately bumping in to a handler repeatedly. Now that he had the crowds attention he started skipping about waving the stick and really just clowning around. He stayed near his mother when offered pellets, his nerve could not take him the distance to eat out of a strange bipedal hand.

All of us humans need to stop and realise how intelligent the elephants are and for us to show much more respect to all our wild life. They do not want confrontation, none of them, it is just us the greedy ape that wants it all, all of the time and some more.

Camp Jabulani:
Elephant back safaris are but one of the offerings at Camp Jabulani. Home to the Big Five and a myriad of other animals and plants, the reserve offers unequalled opportunities to experience the tranquillity of the bush. The reserve incorporates the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, which is widely known for its contribution to the conservation of wildlife. Conceptualised to support a herd of 13 orphaned and abandoned elephants, this is an operation which promises a unique and completely interactive elephant safari.

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