20 Years of Stories with Elephant Manager, Tigere

by jabulanisafari

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Tigere shares a look back at the Jabulani 20-year journey and shares a birthday message from himself and the elephants.

We’ll be sharing the stories of Jabulani with you over the next few months as we celebrate 20 years of our lodge in the South African wilderness. We are so proud of our team members, the people who have walked the journey with us. Some have been there from the beginning and continue to shape the stories we tell and help create the kind of world we are passionate about. A world where rescued elephants are given a second chance at a wild life, a safe and protected life. A world where humans are open to learning from animals, and where love and purpose drive each step.

Tigere’s Story

Elephant Manager, Tigere Matipedza is a man many know, for his incredible leadership in guiding the elephant carers at HERD (Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development – www.herd.org.za), as well as his heartfelt storytelling, deep knowledge of elephants, and infectious humour and laugh. We are so grateful for Tigere’s presence in our human herd and for his excellent care of the elephants. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tigere began working with elephants at the age of 16 and has gained a wealth of wisdom over the years. Tigere worked with the original herd of elephants, now known as the Jabulani herd, back in Zimbabwe before the herd was translocated to South Africa. Having been through so much together and having spent many years together, Tigere has exceptionally close bonds with each of the elephants.

Tigere is responsible for a large part of the well-being of the elephants at HERD, as well as the team of carers. His experience with elephants started in his home country of Zimbabwe, where many of the Jabulani herd elephants originate from. Tigere did not have an easy start in life. He sadly lost his father at the age of six years old, and one year later, lost his mother too. Being one of four brothers, they had to look after themselves, which his eldest brother taking responsibility, who tragically passed away a few years later too.

Tigere had to work full time from the young age of sixteen, which he did, on a farm in Zimbabwe. He asked to work with the elephants on the farm, as he found them very interesting, and soon became a stable hand, with the owner teaching him all he knew about elephants. For the first time in his life, Tigere felt like he made a difference in something, with his hard work and care for the elephants. He started to understand them, and fell in love with working with them, it felt more like a hobby, than work.

In 2002, the elephants’ lives were in danger due to the violent land reform programme in Zimbabwe at the time, and the animals needed to be evacuated urgently. Adine’s mother, Lente Roode came to their assistance, and agreed to also take on the responsibility of supporting the elephant carers too. This included Tigere. However Tigere, did not have a passport, and could not go with the elephants or his colleagues, and so he stayed behind.

By 2005, he had his passport, and in July of that year, he joined the herd again, to work with them at our newly built lodge, Jabulani, which was established to sustain the herd of elephants Lente had taken in. Tigere also met a new member of the herd, orphaned elephant Jabulani. Over the years, Tigere has formed a special bond with Jabulani, feeling a connection with him, having also been an orphan at a young age.

Tigere has proven himself as an excellent leader, not afraid of hard work. In 2017, he completed his FGASA Level 1 in field guiding, as he takes a big interest in nature and sharing his knowledge. Tigere’s wife and three children live in Zimbabwe – he returns home to spend time with them when on leave. He takes time out to spend with his kids in nature, and tending to his cattle and his land. But he says his misses his other family, the elephants, very much when he is away. We are very fortunate that Tigere was able to join us in South Africa all those years ago, as he has been a huge part of our journey and our success.

Tigere gives elephant bull Fishan hydrotheraphy after he fractured his leg in 2018

Discover more:

Meet the HERD elephant carers: https://herd.org.za/meet-the-team/the-carers/

Watch this previous interview with Tigere: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPmGcaYnNaU

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