Gone too Soon – R.I.P Mopane
All of our hearts at HERD and Jabulani have been shattered into a million pieces. It is with incredible heartbreak and disbelief that I share the news of Mopane’s sudden and unexpected passing a few days ago.
I still pray that somehow this is a nightmare that I will wake up from each morning, but I know that is impossible as I was there.
I was there when Mopane collapsed on me with his trunk on my shoulder as I held his head high to try to help him breathe easier; I had no idea what was happening. I looked down and saw blood and foam coming out of his trunk. My heart sank to my feet.
Tigere alerted me to in the early hours of the morning that Mopane was not well, I rushed down to the orphanage to find Mopane struggling to breathe. We notified our vet, Dr. Rogers, to get to HERD ASAP.
We all could see that something was seriously wrong; Mopane had been extremely healthy and happy; this did not make sense. By this time I had Tigere, Owen, Stavros, Tichoana, Schalk, Juan, Samson, Hermien, Reply, Khensani and Listen, all trying to help me keep him alive. We tried CPR for nearly an hour; my team and I would not give up. We stayed focused and refused to lose him, but we felt his little life slowly slipping away from us. Dr. Rogers arrived as soon as he could and confirmed our worst fears; little Mopane had left this world and our broken hearts behind.
WHY? HOW? WHAT?
We had been preparing to share the exciting news of his introduction to the Jabulani herd! He was in such a happy space. This simply should not be happening…
Wildlife Vet, Dr. Peter Rogers, advised from the initial autopsy that it seems likely that Mopane contracted a Virus called Encephalomyocarditis, which may have been passed via traces of rodents urine on some of the dry feed such as lucerne. As we had been experiencing drought, we have had to source extra food from various suppliers, where we suspect the contamination may have originated.
We are waiting for the final lab results from the autopsy specimens to have a better understanding. Dr. Roger’s words during the autopsy bring me a lot of comfort during this challenging time, he said: “You can see he was a happy chappy. He has no ulcers, and his adrenalin gland is small, which indicates that he was not stressed.” Sadly there is no cure for the virus as of yet, and it is incredibly acute. Nature can be so cruel, and we live by her often harsh ways.
Mopane arrived at his new home at HERD in August. We were all so excited as we transported Mopane in a trailer across the reserve from HESC to HERD. Of course, Lammie the sheep, his best friend, joined him as she plays an integral part in his life.
Sadly, we were unable to announce anything about his arrival at HERD (which has been SO difficult) as the permit for orphaned elephants were still under the name of HESC. Although our local authorities came to inspect our facilities and were very impressed, their head office also needed to visit; which further delayed the process.
In an ironic twist of (cruel) fate, at a time when we can finally start sharing Mopane’s daily adventures, he is no longer with us.
Over time, I would still like to share the significant moments of his precious time spent here at HERD with our followers. It was amazing to walk this path with Mopane and to see him growing up so happy in the new orphanage, and the success of our gradual integration process with the Jabulani Herd.
Mopane went on daily walks out in the bushveld, he played and became a bold and brave young elephant bull. He loved having the Jabulani Herd so close by; it gave him comfort. For a length of time, they did not have direct contact; but they had a full view of each other, and they continually rumbled and talked. He would wait for them to pass the orphanage, and they would stop and smell him as they did. Tokwe, the matriarch and Lundi would come every evening as close as possible, with their trunks high, smelling and rumbling. They communicated and became accustomed to the presence of each other.
We had started his direct introduction process with the Jabulani herd this month. It was incredible just how peaceful and calm their first interaction was, though I chose to have half of the herd present at the time. But that is something that we will share with you on another day.
Mopane was like my son. He arrived so small, weighing just over 70kg; and over the past two years, we have played together, cried together, sat, slept, walked, ran together, splashed and even wallowed in dams together.
His wonderful carers share my sentiment and have devoted endless hours, making sure Mopane got the best care. Thank you to my team for the love you gave him. Thank you to our followers, your love and comments even from a far distance keep us all going, and his legacy too.
I am going to miss you, my Moepa, we are all going to miss you. Thanks for putting a smile on our faces when you came running, and you see your happy feet and ele-trunk swaying. I know that one day, you will sit on my lap again.
We will never know what Mopane’s full story would have been, but I feel comfortable to say it from my heart, that it would have been a successful and happy one with the Jabulani herd.
We are trying to pick up the pieces of our broken hearts, but we will not stop here. I am so proud of the orphanage we have built and the team by my side. Although we have lost Mopane to something out of our control, he has helped us all believe that we have created the perfect space for a little elephant that needs a second chance at life. Nothing will prevent us from carrying on with HERD.
I want to thank every single person that has supported Mopane’s journey both financially and emotionally; please know how grateful we all are.
Founder – HERD