The time had come to bring in two more elephants, to introduce little orphan Phabeni to two new members of his future family. The morning started with a meeting at the homestead between Phabeni, Lundi and Jabulani and then, the two big bulls, Somopane and Sebakwe joined.
As they approached, Lundi turned around with her rear towards them. Somopane was the first to approach Lundi and Phabeni. His trunk stretched out to smell the baby, while Lundi’s ears were fanned out, her head lifted up, watching Somopane, while Phabeni suckled from her. Sebakwe was a few steps behind Somopane and moved in between Somopane and Lundi. Lundi was ready for the greeting, mouth open, and her trunk swinging towards them. The open-mouth display is typical of an elephant vocalising and indeed some of the rumbles shared between all the elephants in this greeting can be heard.
Sebakwe reached out his trunk to Phabeni too, smelling the new baby at his feet. Somopane stretched his trunk out towards Lundi while communicating, smelling the secretions from her temporal gland on the side of her head. Phabeni was oblivious to their reaction, suckling in his safe spot with Lundi. Lundi moved a few steps away from the bulls and Phabeni followed.
Soon the little elephant began to show more interest in the bulls. He moved towards Sebakwe, smelling the dominant bull’s belly. He quickly realised that he would not get milk from the bull, and moved towards Lundi again. This older female offers Phabeni comfort and security since they have already formed a bond.
We walked over to the drinking trough to make space for everyone to be around Phabeni. The little chap drank some water and spent time beside the three gentle giants. Soon it was time to head back to the orphanage for Phabeni’s next milk bottle feeding. Another incredible and successful introduction done and dusted, Phabeni closer to meeting the whole herd and integrating into a new family. What a courageous little bull he is, taking each step with a calm and accepting demeanour. He is teaching us plenty about remaining cool under pressure, and the reassurance he gets from Lundi is going a long way in helping him settle into these changes.
Every elephant needs a herd.