Our HERD Elephant Carers are the backbone of our work in caring for, providing for and protecting elephants orphaned or displaced due to human-elephant conflict. They are men and woman of great qualities – patience, dedication, empathy, compassion, strength, and knowledge. As a team, the carers spend up to twelve hours a day with the elephants in the bush – working in two shifts, morning and afternoon. The elephants safety and wellbeing is in their hands as the herd forage, play, explore, swim, and walk in the wilderness together each day from sunrise to set. Many of our carers came over with the original rescued herd from Zimbabwe in 2002 after the herd were threatened with being killed in their home country due to violent land reforms. All orphans themselves, the herd had come to know the carers as their providers and protectors.
Many of the men in our team have known the elephants for two decades and know their natures, needs and histories better than anyone. We have several new carers from the nearby community around us in Hoedspruit, South Africa too, with new nursery elephant carers dedicated to the orphanage and new calves in need of rehabilitation and gradual integration. Leading our carer team is Elephant Manager Tigere Matipedza, a man of great esteem, humour and wisdom! Find out more about our carers below!
Tigere Matipedza – Elephant Manager
Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tigere Matipedza began working with elephants at the age of 16 and has gained a wealth of knowledge over the years. Tigere had been working with the original herd of elephants, now known as the Jabulani herd, back in Zimbabwe before the evacuation took place. Having been through so much together and having spent so many years together, Tigere has exceptionally close bonds with each of the elephants. He officially started working with us in 2005 once obtaining the necessary visa and permits, joining his colleagues and the herd and meeting young Jabulani for the first time. Since then, Tigere has shown exceptional leadership skills and an eagerness to learn all there is to know about elephants and share his knowledge with the world. He completed his FGASA level one in field guiding in 2017. Tigere’s wife and three children live in Zimbabwe – he returns home to spend time with them when on leave.
Reply Mahlakwana – Nursery Carer
Reply Mahlakwana comes from HERD’s surrounding community and is one of the newer elephant carers on the team. He spends most of his time at the orphanage, tending to the needs of the orphaned calves and providing a huge amount of kind care to the young elephants. Reply had his first experience with both adult and baby elephants at HERD, which has since sparked an immense love for these wonderful animals.
Khensani Ngobeni – Nursery Carer
Khensani Ngobeni first joined HERD as a trainee carer and has since been promoted to junior carer. Khensani has a kind personality that truly resonates with the young displaced orphaned elephants that come to HERD. As a result, Khensani has formed exceptional relationships with young elephants and has shown a tremendous level of care. With her sharp intuitive and ingrained compassion, we look forward to watching Khensani’s journey as an elephant carer unfold.
Willinton Mafogo – Nursery Carer
Willinton Mafogo joined HERD as a junior elephant carer in 2021 and fast created a strong bond with orphaned elephant, Khanyisa. Willinton has been passionate about wildlife and conservation since his youth and is an enthusiastic and fast learner. He is also passionate about photography and enjoys taking photos of the elephants and the wildlife that share our reserve.
Stavros Chakoma – Semi-Retired Nursery Carer
Stavros Chakoma is a cherished and highly respected member of our HERD Family. He retired in 2021, but continues to work with us on a six week on six week off basis, to supplement his income and help support his family in Zimbabwe. “Stavros joined us the day the elephants arrived from Zimbabwe in 2002. He is one of the few men who still met my Dad before he passed away in 2003. He fled the war veterans of Mugabe and was prepared to come to an unknown destination on behalf of the elephants. This was not the first time he put the elephants before himself either…” Read Adine’s letter to Stavros after he retired >
Herman Khosa – Nursery and Elephant Carer
Herman Khosa has been with us since 2017 and has worked with elephants since 2018. Herman began his journey as part of the maintenance team and during this time, he started a worm farm. After seeing the exceptional level of care Herman provided to this worm farm, HERD Founder Adine Roode decided to give him the opportunity to work with the elephants as a carer. Herman has shown exceptional care skills and has become a valued member of the HERD team, providing essential care for the orphaned elephants.
Godknows Chivero – Elephant Carer
Originally from Zimbabwe, Godknows Chivero has been working with elephants since 2003 and has extraordinary knowledge on these great mammals. Godknows assisted in training our elephant carers in 2003, but unfortunately due to not having the paperwork to stay, he had to return to Zimbabwe. Godknows was finally able to join our team, and his brother Blessmore, in 2010 after working with elephants in Mozambique and Pilanesberg.
Liverson Sande – Elephant Carer
Liverson first started working with elephants on a farm in Zimbabwe in 1996. He made the journey with the original herd of Jabulani elephants in 2002 and has been a vital carer of this herd ever since. Liverson has extensive knowledge on young, orphaned elephant calves and has been deeply involved with the orphanage since its inception.
Simbarashe Ururi – Elephant Carer
Simbarashe Ururi has nurtured a deep love for animals since childhood, so after completing his schooling in his home country of Zimbabwe in 1995, Simbarashe began working with elephants. Simbarashe accompanied the original rescued Jabulani herd from Zimbabwe to South Africa and has helped to care for orphaned elephants in South Africa ever since. With a keen interest for medical care and much knowledge gained over the years, part of Simbarashe’s duties include to check the herd each morning, tending to any minor wounds and keeping a close eye for any medical issues.
Joshua Dube – Elephant Carer
Joshua Dube has been working with elephants since 1987 and has played a vital role in the rehabilitation and development of a number of orphaned calves. His knowledge and passion have been an immense asset to us, since coming over from Zimbabwe with the elephants in 2002. Joshua’s son, Emmanuel Dube, has followed in his father’s footsteps, joining Jabulani in 2009.
Israel Shambira – Elephant Carer
Born in Zimbabwe, Israel Shambira is an experienced elephant carer who has been working with elephants since 1996. Israel travelled with the original herd of Jabulani elephants from Zimbabwe to South Africa in 2002 and has been with us ever since. Having a keen interest in orphaned wildlife care, Israel has been a huge asset to HERD since it’s conception, providing much knowledge and guidance to up-and-coming carers.
Shepherd Nkomazana – Elephant Carer
Shepherd Nkomazana has been working with elephants since 2000 and previously worked in the Pilanesberg National Park for close to ten years before joining our team in 2017. Shepherd has a world of knowledge on elephants and has been an exceptional addition to the elephant carer team. He lives near the reserve with the family he has built here in South Africa, including his two daughters.
Tichona Dube – Elephant Carer
Much like his father, Joshua Dube, Tichona Dube’s passion for wildlife has resulted in a career as an elephant carer. Before joining us in 2005, Tichona was employed by a game lodge in Zimbabwe. He then joined his father and brother, Emmanuel Dube, a few years after the elephants came over from Zimbabwe. Tichona is a quick learner with incredible dedication, which has earned him position as a senior elephant carer.
Last Scholar – Elephant Carer
Last Scholar is originally from Zimbabwe and has been working with elephants since 2005. Last spend four years training, learning about elephant care, and gaining practical experience at Elephants for Africa Forever before joining our team in 2009. The experience he has gained over the years has been of huge help to the HERD orphanage and we are grateful to have his knowledge and dedication on hand.
Owen Dube – Elephant Carer
Owen has been working with elephants since 1999, beginning his career in Victoria Falls. Owen joined our team in 2005 and has been a valued leader within the team ever since.
Clever Magiriva – Elephant Carer
Keen elephant enthusiast, Clever Magiriva has been working with elephants since 2004 and first joined us in 2013. He had gained much knowledge on elephants working with a lodge in Zimbabwe and moved to South Africa in 2006, gaining further experience through working with elephants in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.
Emmanuel Dube – Elephant Carer
Son to Joshua and brother to Tichona, Emmanuel Dube’s family bonds to elephant care runs deep. Emmanuel originates from Zimbabwe and has been working with elephants since he has been employed with us in 2007. Emmanuel enjoys living and working with his father and brother and has formed many close bonds with the elephants of the herd.
Blessmore Gwerere – Elephant Carer
Blessmore Gwerere has an amazing and personal history with the original Jabulani herd of elephants and travelled with them from Zimbabwe to South Africa in 2002. He was employed by us as an elephant carer from 2002-2004 before leaving to return to Zimbabwe. Blessmore re-joined us in 2010 and has been working with the Jabulani herd and orphaned calves at HERD ever since.
Josiya Hando – Elephant Carer
With almost two decades of experience under his belt, Joyisa Hando is a valued member of the HERD carer team. He first began working with elephants in 2003 and has worked with elephants both in Zimbabwe and at a few elephant facilities in South Africa. Joyisa began working with us in 2013 and has since formed wonderful bonds with the elephants of the herd.
Foster Timba – Elephant Carer
Originally from Zimbabwe, Foster has been working with elephants since 2006 and has worked with us since 2010. Foster gained experience working with elephants both in his home country, Zimbabwe, and at a lodge in South Africa before joining us. He provides dedicated care to the Jabulani herd of elephants and assists with the orphaned calves too.
George Zulu – Elephant Carer
Originally from Zimbabwe, George Zulu joined us in 2014 and has since become a highly valued elephant carer, for the Jabulani herd and the orphaned calves. George first began working with elephants in 2006 and gained much experience working with elephants at another lodge in South Africa before joining the team.
Colben Mogakane – Elephant Carer
Colben Mogakane first joined us in 2004 and soon developed an immense passion for elephants. He worked with the Jabulani herd for a year and then spent some time working with elephants in Knysna. Colben returned to us in 2010 and has been an asset to HERD, providing superb care to the young, displaced calves.