Adine shares her view of Khanyisa’s first morning in the homestead.
We are waiting for all the carers to come and lead the elephants out of the homestead before feeding Khanyisa. The orphanage carers and I don’t enter, because we don’t want to disturb any of the elephants. We need to create a new routine for Khanyisa. Routine makes a human feel safe and they know what to expect. It also helps the elephants. I have handed Khanyisa over to Tokwe and that is their territory. Although Tokwe and I understand each other, I will not put any of the carers in a position where it is not safe. Safety comes first and although they are gentle giants, they are still a wild animal, which we should never forget and should always respect.
I arrive an hour before the carers will arrive for their first morning shift to lead the herd out to the bush after their checkup and to give an opportunity for medical procedures like wound cleaning. The time passes slowly and I wish I could go in and give Khanyisa a hug, but it is time to let go. She is an elephant within a herd who accepted her.
We had enough time to prepare the milk, cut sweet potato, pick grass and bana grass and play a bit with Lammie and Nungu at the orphanage.
The night went smoothly, the team tell me. A wild bull came to visit at the homestead a few times, but there were no funny interactions, no disturbing incidents. We were not sure about how Pisa would react towards Khanyisa in the homestead. But Stavros explained to me that during the night, Khanyisa stood between a sleeping Timisa and Pisa who were lying down. She slept standing up. The one update I received during the night was that she didn’t sleep much and maybe lay down for half an hour. This is not unexpected as she is new to the environment, new to how everyone sleeps and where she will fit in. I know she will be fine. Tigere told me during the night, “She will be fine, you don’t need to worry.” But it can be difficult not to.
The carers arrive and Khanyisa is excited to see them. She wanders against the ‘traffic’ of all the different elephants, before joining them. We call her and she picks up her bottles one by one. As she finishes the one, she drops or hands the empty bottle to us before picking up the next one.
The sweet potato, boskos (pellets) and apple are all mixed, which takes Khanyisa time to pick out the boskos first. Sweet potato gets dropped on the grass as she prefers the pellets, which is also very nutritious and tasty! Only when there are no more pellets does she starts with the sweet potato. She is used to eating slowly and getting up during the night to feed on these items, but now she needs to gulp it all up before going to the bush. The milk and food will be good for her this morning and she will surely catch a nap later during the day.
Although the transition is smooth and happened over the last 2,5 years with every integration step we took, to start weaning her off her night bottles and move her to the homestead is still a big step and we will keep a careful eye on her to ensure that she doesn’t lose condition. I do expect her to drop weight and shed a few kilograms during the next two weeks, whereafter she will start picking up the weight again.
Any new routine has an impact. We just need to manage it as best as we can.
After feeding, we set off to the bush with the females happily joining Khanyisa again, as though it’s just a normal morning. She is in good trunks.