Jabulani - His story and why we introduced Khanyisa to him first.

April 5, 2020

Twenty-three years ago, in 1997, Jabulani's start to life mirrored that of little Khanyisa's, the albino elephant calf in our care at HERD. Perhaps that is why he has taken such a vested interest in her wellbeing over the past two months.

Jabulani was rescued from a deep pool of mud, having undergone a lot of injuries from the evident rescue attempts by his herd, who must have eventually given up and abandoned him.

His little life was saved just in time, and he was taken into the care of Lente Roode (our founder, Adine's mother) at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC). It was here that he was rehabilitated successfully, in the warm love of a caring human family; much like Khanyisa at HERD.

Jabulani as a young calf in the care of HESC. Seen with his sheep friend Skaap

When he was healthy enough and weaned so not having to rely on the team for milk anymore, the HESC team tried to introduce him to wild elephant herds. But, wild herds are known for not usually accepting elephants outside of their family structure, and he was sadly rejected, after multiple attempts.

At five years old, and growing into a sizeable young elephant with none of his own kind around him, a twist of fate brought a future elephant family into his path.

Lente Roode, founder of HESC and Jabulani, feeding Jabulani

In 2002, Lente Roode was asked to consider rescuing a herd of elephants from Zimbabwe whose lives were under threat during their national land reformation processes. Most of the herd were orphaned as a result of culling operations; however, we don't have details of each one of their histories, sadly. They were part of an elephant back safari company, and their carer's livelihoods were at stake too. The family Reserve had the land and capacity to assist and Lente agreed, also with the hope that they would perhaps accept Jabulani. But there was no guarantee, given the history of their previous attempts with wild herds.

Fortunately, a few months after the herd arrived and settled, it was time to introduce Jabulani to them. Tokwe, the matriarch still today, showed pure grace and acceptance and placed her trunk into his mouth and from that day on took his little life under her ele-wings, along with the rest of the herd.

Jabulani had found his herd.

Jabulani at 23 years old - 2020
Jabulani 23 years old - 2020

In 2009 Tokwe and the herd accepted another rescued elephant called Kumbura, who is healthy and thriving today. In 2016 they welcomed Timisa warmly too, who is now five years old and loving her new life with her new family. In 2018 Shawu was their fourth adoptee, but sadly he passed away due to heart conditions a few months later.

In 2016, Adine Roode, who has been part of their journey from the beginning alongside her mom, took the helm in caring for the elephants and the lodge built to sustain them (called Jabulani). She identified the unique quality of the Jabulani herd. She envisaged building an orphanage in the same location, providing any future baby elephants orphaned due to human-elephant conflict a second chance that they so rightly deserve.

HERD (Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development) came to be in 2019. A place that orphans can get individual care based on their individual needs, but in close proximity and comfort of their own kind, and the opportunity to integrate them into the Jabulani Herd at a pace suitable to their unique emotional needs. 

The view from the HERD orphanage to the Jabulani Stables

The set up of the orphanage and the Jabulani elephant quarters allows us to continue providing milk to orphans as they integrate with the herd, until such time that they are weaned, as the Jabulani cows can not offer milk as they are not lactating. 

Why did Adine choose to introduce Khanyisa to Jabulani first rather than Tokwe, the matriarch? 

Although Khanyisa has become familiar with Tokwe, the Matriarch, via the fences and they often communicate, she has struck up a lovely and understated bond with Jabulani who has taken a vested interest in her wellbeing. Most mornings over the past two months, he has taken time to visit Khanyisa through the fence at the bottom of the orphanage, and they would both stand, often in what sounds like silence to us, and be in each others company. He seems to have taken on a very protective role from the onset. 

We had seen this before when Kumbura and Timisa, the two orphaned elephants were introduced to the herd. Sebakwe, the dominant bull of the herd, took a special father figure role for Kumbura, and in Timisa's case, Fishan stepped up to the position.

Khanyisa has enjoyed the loving and watchful eye of Jabulani looking over her, and due to her terrible start to life being caught in a snare and abandoned, and the amount of trauma and stress she endured, Adine followed her instincts and felt it would be the least stressful initial introduction for Khanyisa at this stage. Khanyisa was introduced in person to Jabulani on 29 March 2020.

The first formal introduction between Khanyisa and Jabulani.

Of course, it will be essential for Khanyisa to be introduced to a female, and that it will be the next step in her integration process.

Adine often leans on our trusted expert elephant advisory team for additional advice and consultation ahead of her decisions and continues to do so through Khanyisa's integration.

Keep your eye on our social media platforms for up to date information on Khanyisa's progress and integration.

If you would like to donate towards the costs of caring for Khanyisa, and our daily operational costs, or foster Khanyisa, please go to our website, www.herd.org.za to do so.

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