Scott’s Update on Our Ever-Growing Family

Hello Friends of Elephant Havens!

I am writing this update from the plane as we return from Botswana because we simply can’t wait to share so much news—just from September happenings. We have news of elephants, team members, funding goals achieved, and projects that can now be completed.

More on this below, but WE MADE THE $40,000 MATCH!!! THANKS TO ALL WHO HELPED MAKE THIS HAPPEN. We are truly honored with your trust and support.

Now back to the update. Our primary mission is bittersweet at the core. A baby without its mother and family is a tragedy, and one simply must act. At Elephant Havens we do just that with a level of care that is remarkable. Just this month we’ve brought another three young elephants into our care. All are thriving and mixing into the existing herd of seven, so now we have 10 elephants at the primary orphanage.

Within two days, we rescued Tsala (meaning Friend) and Makoba (meaning Knob Thorn Acacia Tree). Just two weeks later, we found Neo (meaning Gift).

Tsala is about 21 months old. This cute little male is possibly the most vocal elephant we have ever encountered when his milk and bottle are presented. He screams like an elephant being tortured (not sure of that sound but seems like it would fit) when his bottle is not in his mouth 

By the way, feeding at Elephant Havens has become an event to behold. Nine elephants coming in hot as the handlers spread out to field the incoming charge of little ones—all flapping ears and swinging trunks and this time of year—dust. Lots of dust. Adding to the mild chaos is that some young ones are on different formula recipes than others. The team keeps that all sorted expertly.

But back to Tsala. So, he is not only impatient at the speed with which the bottle arrives, he is very, very certain that the milk offered is NOWHERE NEAR enough. After all, he is a growing boy, don’t we know that? As soon as his bottle is empty, he erupts into the loud rumble of a grumpy young boy, even though he is really just sweet to his core and seems to be quite enjoying the turn his young life has taken. At feeding time (every 3 hours all day and night), everyone can set their watches as, no matter where one is on the property, Tsala can be heard loudly announcing the top of the hour.

The current darling of all the older females in the herd is little Makoba. He has an interesting story. This little boy—and he is little, only six months at rescue—was found very near the soft release area where our seven oldest rescues now live. (These graduates will grow and enjoy some serious independence as elephants well on their way to their future life in the wild.)

We named him “Makoba” as he was found on the banks of the large Makoba Lagoon, so there’s nothing more to his name than geography. Although the name does seem a good fit, given that the elephant bomas and a large section of Elephant Havens are shaded by magnificent Makoba (knob thorn acacia) trees. As usual, Bee and his team first monitored the young boy to see if any passing herd might adopt him. Sadly, none did. It also appeared that a leopard had attacked the baby. Makoba had escaped but suffered some injuries from claws and jaws, and sported a rather short tail. It was time to organize a rescue.

He was so small that we did not need to dart and anesthetize him to bring him to safety. But he showed he was a powerful little one as Bee and the four team members corralled him, picked him up and stowed him in the Land Cruiser. His wounds were doctored and most of them have healed. We are still working on his tail, but believe we have it under control.

Makoba and Tsala both graduated from quarantine to the regular bomas and then, in record time, joined the herd to roam the property daily. Six-month-old Makoba is, rightly, the object of constant attention from the matriarch, Tshepiso, and her lieutenant, Boka. He is absolutely ecstatic to have Debra scratch his cheeks, under his jaw, behind his ears and well, you name it, each morning while he waits to move out of his boma. It is quite wonderful to see, but beware, an elephant’s skin is like a super rough, industrial-grade emery board. Debra’s nails look like she has been digging potatoes and being compensated by the bushel.

Last, we have the sweet girl Neo. We believe she is 26 months old or so, although it’s hard to say. She has the tusks of an older baby but was found in such a harsh place (Sekondomboro Village in the Okavango Delta Panhandle) and was so thin, she may actually be older than we think. Possibly, she was undernourished for so long that she is small for her age. But, wow, is she making a comeback! 

She spent five days in quarantine, quickly learned to take the bottle (not always very easy), and enjoyed the constant love and attention from Debra and the handlers. Then she simply marched herself over to the main bomas. After four nights there, she moved seamlessly into the herd and has already met the public during visiting hours.

She spent five days in quarantine, quickly learned to take the bottle (not always very easy), and enjoyed the constant love and attention from Debra and the handlers. Then she simply marched herself over to the main bomas. After four nights there, she moved seamlessly into the herd and has already met the public during visiting hours.

So, we have these wonderful new babies, which means we have new staff as well. Two handlers per elephant are needed, what with night shifts and days off and such. Joining us are Sam, Orris, Colleen, and Tseppi. In addition to our amazing handler Kay, Colleen and Tseppi will make three women handlers on the team. Each of the new hires seems quite committed to the babies and our mission. They are all from the local communities and, as an added benefit, bring brilliant voices and great moves to the Elephant Havens choir and dance troupe. (As the choir assembled for its most recent appearance, Bee tried to coax me into a chair. I declined, incredulous they didn’t understand that I was about to join in the dancing!)

More staff and more elephants mean more housing and more habitat are needed. We mentioned we successfully made the $40,000 donation match. That means we can complete the Elephant Havens-designed, 18-wire solar-powered electric fence around three new expansion areas at the primary orphanage. This effectively triples the size of the property—TRIPLES. It brings in much needed natural grazing areas (once the rains return) and foliage options just in time to deal with the end of the annual grindingly dry season (April to November). Congrats to all donors and the very generous match that made this possible. This expansion should provide options to rotate the herd through various parts of the property and also allow us to handle twice as many babies as we have now. 
Many projects are in the works. Some school-related ones in the category of “wish and dream” that we will realize one day. Some more are in the “this is gonna happen soon” stage (like additional staff housing and a new public viewing area for the daily meet-and-greet with the babies). And finally, some that are in process—like a new or used vehicle solely for the soft release area located six miles from the main orphanage, and a new satellite baby elephant care center in Botswana’s panhandle area where Bee owns some land. That area has proven to be a harsh habitat and one that gives rise to orphaned elephants. At this outpost we can stabilize, care for, and strengthen a fragile baby before the long 12+ hour drive back to Elephant Havens in the cold winter or boiling summer.

Our current public viewing area

If you are still with us in this report, thank you and apologies. There is much more to tell but our editor has limited us to 1500 words, and we are now 7 words over that (Ed. note—more like 74, Scott!). So, I’m signing off and thanking you all. Please know that Bee and Debra and I are so grateful and forever in wonder at the support you all have provided and continue to provide. 
One more thought (sorry, editor), none of these beautiful young elephants would be alive today but for your trust in us, your generosity and your FINANCIAL support. While we cannot save them all, we can save many. With your gifts we will continue to do so.

Thank you from all of us at Elephant Havens,

1 Comment

  • Pamela mcEntire October 31, 2023 3:57 pm

    We were there in May when you just had seven sweet elephants, we had with us our five grandchildren who fell in love with each and everyone and they know their names to this day you were doing a fabulous job, and I hope you know how much you are appreciated and what a wonderful job you do. Pam

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