Listen to Tigere share an update on the very special elephant orphan in our care, Kumbura ~ An Elephant Reminder of Love and Perseverance. Kumbura has successfully integrated into the herd and has been a marvel over the years in terms of adapting to her new family and becoming a loving allomother and guardian for new orphans.
Kumbura is another example of the power of hope and perseverance, a reminder that we can get through the hard times by giving life all we have and supporting one another. It was teamwork, love and compassion that got her to where she is today – a happy member of the rescued herd with a family of her own.
Her beginnings in life were less than positive. In August 2009, she was seen wandering on a private game reserve in Botswana, alone, with no sight of her mother or herd. Although it will never be known for sure what happened to her herd, we assume that her mother had been shot by poachers, and that she had been abandoned.
Kumbura when she first arrived in 2009, dehydrated and scared. Kumbura had been alone next to the Limpopo River on the border of Botswana and South Africa for three months before she was rescued. She was thought to be around 18-24 months old and a guard was placed near to her so that she could be tracked. We received a call from Nature Conservation authorities about the tiny baby elephant to see if we could assist in taking her in. Immediately, our team made their way up north to find and retrieve the little calf.
When the team and a specialist vet arrived in Botswana, they found little Kumbura in a dry river bed. As it was getting dark, they didn’t have much time to work, and trying to rescue her failed after the young elephant charged them and then ran away. After three days of searching for Kumbura, the team had to leave.
A month later, we were called with the news that Kumbura had been spotted and we immediately returned to the area, and manned the rescue operation, bringing Kumbura to our reserve at Jabulani, in South Africa, where the little elephant was placed in the homestead. The rest of the herd had been out on their walk when she arrived. On their return, the elephants started rumbling and trumpeting, communicating with little Kumbura.
Lundi and her calf, Mambo, at the time were placed in the stable next to Kumbura, and Lundi immediately put her trunk through and smelt and touched the newcomer, giving off a small rumble. As the days went by, Limpopo and Klaserie bullied Kumbura. Kumbura, however, took a liking to Sebakwe, and Sebakwe immediately took to ‘mothering’ him. Every time Kumbura was bullied, she immediately ran off and took shelter with Sebakwe!
In these early days, Kumbura was wild, traumatised and would panic when people got too close to her… This made us even more sure that her mother had been a victim of poaching, and that she had probably seen it happen. She was severely dehydrated, but Dr. Rogers managed to stabilise and rehydrate her. Getting her to eat was difficult. She didn’t like the milk formula, and none of the females in the Jabulani herd were willing to feed her. We truly were not sure whether she would survive.
A year passed and we noticed her warming to us… She was softening, within herself and with the carers, even responding to them. We believe a key reason that Kumbura pulled through is because of the comfort she received from the elephants in the herd – especially Lundi and Tokwe, two of the larger and older females, who adopted her as their own, and her gentle guardian angel, Sebakwe, the dominant bull.
She was still a nervous elephant, with visible self-doubt, but she loved attention from her herd, and spent a lot of time with Tokwe and Pisa, often following them around. She was a sensitive and delicate little calf, slightly taller and leaner than the other young elephants, with a tiny trunk and smaller thinner tusks than the others.
Despite this start in life, she has become a truly caring soul who plays a major and important role in the social hierarchy of the herd. She is always protective over the other orphans accepted by the herd, both Timisa and Khanyisa, offering her companionship wherever she goes. She even makes sure to watch over the young ones during their swims in the dam, keeping her away from the deeper parts and nudging her towards the shallows.