A Q&A with Adine Roode: Elephants, Community & a Little Chocolate Here and There
A Deeper Look into the Heart of Adine Roode this World Environment Day
Adine can very often be found behind the camera of late, filming the incredible and everyday experiences of the rescued Jabulani herd and orphans, Khanyisa, Timisa, Kumbura, and Jabulani whom the herd, all orphans themselves, have accepted into their family. Her walks and talks out in our reserve have been shared through HERD, to give the world a glimpse of the beauty and complexity of elephants, a species Adine has dedicated her life to. But we wanted to cast the light onto her today.
Adine’s heart belongs to all of nature, to the big and small things that we work to give a protected and thriving home to at Jabulani and HERD. Discover more from Adine, MD and Owner of Jabulani, and Founder of HERD (Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development) in our Q&A below.
1. How have you tried to use Jabulani and HERD to help make the world a better place?
I am driven to make the world a better place and Jabulani and HERD are ways to do this. I want to save even a spider or scorpion, not because I like them, but because I know they contribute to the world. We need to look out for even the small things, while also keeping our eyes on the bigger picture.
The Jabulani rescued herd consists of orphaned and habituated elephants, who not only accept elephant orphans and nurture them, but also provide a stable and controlled environment for orphans, as well as a social structure to enhance the lifetime of an integrated calf. We need to mitigate the chronic long-term stress of releasing elephants directly into the wild if they don’t have a social system. This is what Jabulani and HERD have enabled, the rehabilitation and integration of rescued elephants in need of a herd and home.
Elephants are part of our natural capital and we as humans have a collective responsibility towards our wildlife. The Jabulani herd are also a voice for the elephant species as a whole. Through sharing the stories of the herd, of our knowledge and experience, and our journey with them, the elephants have created a space for people to learn more about the species and build a connection to them.
The lodge is part of our goal to be sustainable, by creating jobs not only directly linked to elephant care, but also in tourism and nature conservation. The elephants contribute to human, social and economic development as well as human livelihoods and wellbeing locally, while HERD also provides opportunity for research and student training to enhance knowledge.
2. What do you think the role of the individual is in helping to create a better world and home for animal and human kind?
Every human being plays a role in damaging the environment through simply living on this planet. We as humans destroy the planet every day through our activities to live, eat and drink, and therefore each of us needs to lessen the imprint we leave behind daily. We become dependent on luxuries and overindulging in many ways, which creates a problem (you might not even be aware of it). We need to take responsibility for how we move through the world… The truth is that we are overpopulating the planet and we need to address that. But it is of course a very sensitive subject as we have certain human rights. But what about the Earth’s rights?
3. How do you try to create a connection between the wildlife and human communities at HERD and Jabulani?
In every way we can really. Creating the lodge and orphanage, we were able to connect the herd and communities through job opportunities and community initiatives, but also build partnerships with others doing the work of conservation. The Jabulani elephants play a role in contributing to local development and sustainability – such as sustaining life on land, improving social cohesion, enhancing environmental and economic development, and reducing gender inequality through the empowerment of women, youth and the disadvantaged. We don’t promote the removal of any calves from the wild and always consider the risks posed by elephants’ complex social natures. HERD has specific criteria for taking in orphans for rehabilitation, for instance the elephant must have been orphaned due to a direct consequence of human interference and human-created problems, like poaching. Having the responsibility for the 16 elephants currently in our care, it’s clear how sharing their stories can foster greater awareness about poaching and elephant-human conflict.
Many people and organisations can contribute to wildlife conservation and each has different strengths. We’re committed to the Jabulani herd and will ensure their well-being for their natural lives, but we can’t do it all alone. We use our platform and strengths to connect with others and create valuable partnerships, to work together toward shared objectives. Through these connections, we can share our strengths and receive support of likeminded partners, to achieve so much more.
For example, I am not a teacher, but I want to create an ongoing and growing relationship with schools in order to share information about elephants, so we create a partnership with an organisation that has a system for this already in place and we reach out to more schools and communities. Other organisations may have projects where we at HERD or Jabulani can assist them to reach their goals too.
4. How do you balance yourself and make sure to care for yourself while doing the work of conservation and elephant rehabilitation and integration?
Balance is essential. Balancing life is not always easy, but I have an amazing team who help to keep the ship sailing smoothly. Balance is very much based on teamwork, but I do take time out from operations to clear my head and stay objective. You can easily get consumed with the daily operations, but for me ideas are created when I step away and have time to think clearly. I still receive daily updates from all aspects in operations, even when I spend time with my family and friends or on my own, cycling or running. It stresses me when I don’t know what is happening. I take moments to handle the urgent matters. But I do need to catch up on my sleep from time to time.
5. What drives you to continue to work and succeed even with the challenges faced?
What motivates me in work and life are the elephants. My respect for them. My passion for each elephant. The more time I spend with them and the more I learn about them, the more I realise that this rescued herd needs our protection and we must provide them with a comfortable environment that meets their biological and social needs.
6. What is it about elephants that has captured your heart and directed your path in life?
I feel humbled next to elephants. The way they are created with so much strength and power, yet also soft hearts and immense intelligence. The Jabulani elephants trust us as humans, even after being orphaned due to poaching and other conflicts with humans. I have so much respect for them, but also understand and never push their boundaries as they are still wild animals. We trust each other. It didn’t happen overnight, it came over hours and hours, days and days in each other’s company. They stimulate my way of thinking and the way I address things in life. They teach me and allow me into their personal space. I don’t have to talk with them. I can just be me with them.
7. How does HERD, the elephant herd and human herd, inspire you and contribute to creating a happy healthy world?
As humans, we are custodians of our natural world, yet again it turns out that elephants are looking after humans. They create jobs – for each elephant calf another few jobs are created to look after them, but not only a job, a career in elephant care and a passion. It is a long walk with an elephant as they have a lifespan of over 60 years.
I believe in a balance between science and practical implementation, as well as the importance of ethics. While gathering data for research for years to come, I started recording my observations, and sharing them too. I really didn’t imagine that HERD would not only add value in providing an opportunity for research, but also in reaching people around the world who have fallen in love with elephants. Through HERD, we have managed to create a voice for elephants; to form a herd for orphaned elephants and to give a second chance to those in need.
The human herd have gotten to know me. There is nothing I will ask anyone to do that I am not able to or won’t do myself. My dad taught me that the elevator to success is broken and you need to take the stairs. I love to share this, as too much free time on our hands can have an unhealthy impact on any person.
Sometimes there is so much negative media, that it drains you emotionally. Authentic feel-good stories, in contrast, give so much value to a person’s emotional wellbeing. This inspires us at Jabulani and HERD, to connect people to the positive stories of our wildlife – in this case elephants. Elephants add immense value to the environment and other wildlife. They are a keystone species, and environmental engineers. No elephant should suffer or be without a herd, and rather than see them as separate from us, we can work to better share our lives with them, to protect them, to learn from them and to share their wisdom and beauty.
8. How does a guest’s visit to Jabulani help and contribute to conservation?
Guests staying at Jabulani help HERD to sustain the elephants and contribute to the elephants’ constant needs, as well as the various projects that we run – our anti-poaching team and reserve team managing the environment, job creation in the local community area including jobs in tourism that help people to support themselves and their families. By visiting us at Jabulani, people really get to connect with elephants and understand and respect them, their power and strength. This connection is vital in getting people to fall in love with the species and the wilderness so that they will want to protect it.
9. How does food feed into the philosophy of sustainability at Jabulani?
We use fresh produce from locally-sourced suppliers and introduced an aquaponics system, where we harvest our own herbs and leafy greens, with a plan to roll this system out in our local community. This is often an impressive talking point for guests. Many guests are looking at similar systems at home and we are able to encourage and entice people to follow a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way of living, of growing your own food and reducing your carbon footprint. Personally, I believe that you should not overindulge. I believe in balance. I believe in eating local produce and fewer artificial ingredients. But I do have to admit that I am not flawless, I do like my glass of wine and chocolate.
When you are away on a holiday and out of the hustle and bustle of your normal life, it is much easier to absorb the information you pick up and discover at the lodges you stay at – ideas on how to be more eco-friendly and how you as a person can reduce your impact. Being here in nature, guests also realise that we can lose these last remaining wildernesses if we don’t make a huge change in our ways of thinking and being.
10. Do you miss travelling and where is the first place you’re looking forward to going to when international travel eases and opens fully?
Indeed I miss travelling. I miss sharing ideas and listening to people’s stories and discussing our beautiful country with others. I love seeing the world through other people’s eyes and what makes people tick, in order to create the best travel experience at Jabulani. Japan and the USA will be my first choice of countries to visit for work. Personal travel experiences, I prefer to stay in South Africa as there are still so many places that I would like to see and experience.