December 2022 Update
Dear Friends of Elephant Havens,
We have such good news to share! The month of Thanksgiving brought many blessings to all those (2-legged and 4-legged) at Elephant Havens.
First, the somewhat harrowing rescue of 2 orphans: one, a little boy, who we have named Lesago meaning lucky, recently orphaned in the drought-stricken Okavango Delta panhandle region, and the other, a little girl we named Mela, meaning to grow, who had been fending for herself—with limited success—for some time in the villages near Victoria Falls. We say “somewhat harrowing” because, as we told you barely a month ago, the Nissan single-cab truck that had carted all prior rescues to Elephant Havens began to fail after 4 years of desert and delta and daily duty in the mission. These days it can still be trusted to haul most anything except precious cargo.
So, we asked for your help and by the holiday we had this beautiful Toyota Land Cruiser, fully equipped to safely and dependably carry an orphan home to Elephant Havens. It’s a real beauty— the gold standard in the conservation industry in sub-Saharan Africa, and we are so grateful to have this critical piece of equipment. The response to our plight was immediate and generous, and we thank you so very much. This truck will truly be a lifesaver for many years to come.
On a different note, and touching in a different way, is the experience we witnessed with the new little girl. Words often fail to convey what your eyes can see. She came to us from a rough area in the Botswana villages near Victoria Falls. She was bone thin and listless. We brought her to our quarantine stables at Elephant Havens where she was quick to take to the bottle—a very good thing—and quick to permit her handlers to enter her boma and attend to her needs—also good.
With some wild babies, we expect as much as a 6-week stay in quarantine, even though we can be satisfied sooner (thanks to our on-site lab), with testing and general observation that they are of no risk to the rest of the herd. But a wild elephant is just that. And even at only a few months old they are formidable if they choose to be.
This girl was experiencing some swelling in her little feet, and although we could get her moving around the boma it was not the same as being out in the open. She had met the rest of the herd as they visited her enclosure (a sight to see and hear—what trumpeting!), and they were anxious to have her join. So, given her sweet demeanor and the swelling, the decision was made to allow her to walk the property, through the woods to the fenced Delta area with grassland and ponds and mud wallows that the herd has designed as a herd will do.
Here is where it became interesting. The herd was excited to see her and the older girls gathered and doted, as would be the case in any matriarchal wild herd. Then the little girl found herself in the soft mud. And as she’s still weak, she foundered and fell. Struggling and unable to get up, she quickly became vocal about her plight. The matriarch, 5-year-old MmaMotse, was frantic and immediately on task, but the little one was going to be better served by two arms and a strong back than by MmaMotse’s trunk.
Onks Motamma, whom you may know by his smile and good judgment and commitment to the elephants, stepped into the situation, which by then had become more than a bit chaotic. MmaMotse quickly deferred, standing very close by, knowing, trusting, and by all accounts grateful, for the human intervention.
Who on earth knows how to get a little elephant back on its feet without a team of six and a lift? Onks does. He lifted each of her little front legs from under her to place her front feet flat on the ground. Then he lifted and pushed from the rear and voila, she was up. Crisis diffused.
At nearly 5 years of age, three of the lady elephants tower over Onks. Yet MmaMotse and the other females practically high-fived him for doing what they weren’t able to. The communication and coordination between herd and human never ceases to delight and amaze.
I am happy to report that in less than three weeks both babies are out with the herd, being doted on by MmaMotse and the crew. They are both getting stronger by the day. We continue to learn from these amazing creatures every day we spend with them. Some days it almost seems unreal that we have the privilege of doing what we’re doing to protect and preserve the African elephant. Without your support and your donations, it simply couldn’t be done.