A Unique Family of Elephants ~ The Special Jabulani Herd
The Jabulani herd is just like other wild elephant herds that you may have seen on safari and learnt about from your Ranger or through your own curious investigations. Elephants are fascinating animals and each new fact about them that you discover leads you to a new attribute worthy of awe. Their family spirit is certainly one of those details, a characteristic of elephants alike that teaches us so much about staying by each other’s side, through thick and thin, and about helping others even when the task may fall outside your duties.
But where the Jabulani herd defies the textbooks and legends is the very unique bond that they have with one another. With the original herd, most of the elephants in the herd are either orphans or born to these orphans. Most of them are not connected by blood. And yet, they have accepted one another, through time and shared experiences, and become a herd of their own. Theirs is the most moving of tales…
Just when you think you know all there is to know about elephants, the Jabulani herd breaks all convention, as though it were a mere twig curled up in those twisty, “groundbreaking” trunks.
Wild elephant herds are known to not accept elephants that are not their own, that are not born to a member in the herd. The Jabulani herd hold a great wildness within their minds, bodies and spirits, despite growing up around humans. At Jabulani they have the chance to roam freely for much of the day, foraging through the wilderness of our reserve and interacting with the natural tastes, sights, scents and sounds of the environment, with its curious plants and animals.
But their spirits show something truly unique, and it may very well be due to their own beginnings at orphans… The Jabulani herd accept others, elephants not their own, and they have built a family of their own with a complete lack of prejudice, and with grace and kindness.
Of course, each elephant in the herd has their own personality, their own sensitivities.
Certain of the females have experience in motherhood or babysitting as an allomother and take to looking after new orphans introduced into the herd – such as Kumbura and Timisa – as though they were – and indeed they were – made for it. It is beautiful to watch. The growing herd, the growing heart of a new adoptive mother.
But the gents show equal acceptance, with many of the older or friendlier bulls, like Fishan, Sebakwe and Jabulani, taking great interest in new orphaned calves that are introduced to them from the wild world outside their hood and herd. These bulls in the Jabulani herd have shown such a protective fatherly streak that is much needed and highly beneficial in the cohesion of the whole herd and in the overall acceptance of new elephants in need of a home.
The Jabulani herd continues to show their unique nature of adopting outsiders and treating them with a sensitive, intuitive familiarity and a desire to not let another elephant feel unwanted. They have certainly shown this with little Khanyisa in the care of HERD, the elephant orphanage next door.
Lundi has taken the albino calf right under her trunk and you could say that the allomothers are almost bickering over who gets to have the luxury of being her allomother (aunt). Similarly, the females have gone out of their way to help Khanyisa attempt to latch onto them to suckle, even though they cannot produce milk. The gesture from both calf and adult is still a sign of great acceptance – allowing one another into such an intimate space.
Like any family, they still have jostles and jibes. Sometimes they run away from home (like Mambo), or get jealous (Pisa) of other youngsters getting more attention. Sometimes they’re a little more assertive in their parenting or need to show their dominance over other bulls (Jabulani is rising…). There are fluid dynamics at play, naturally, as in a wild herd, but they self-govern, self-regulate, as elephants do, with the Matriarch (Tokwe) leading the way, with her natural leadership and earned wisdom.
The compassion with which the members of the Jabulani herd treat one another is truly remarkable…
Their acceptance of others is something that we humans could do with adopting too. It is this unique spirit that has enabled us to give orphaned or displaced elephants a second chance at life with a new herd of their own, so that they can continue to grow and access those innate wild elephant instincts that make them such intelligent and emotional beings.