We have already shared Adine Roode’s first hand account of the arrival of Timisa, an orphaned baby elephant found without her mother after approximately two weeks alone. She was brought to Camp Jabulani by Elephants Alive. We left off where she had arrived at the stables, and had begun to eat. But she had not yet met the rest of the Camp Jabulani herd. We bring you the rest of Adine’s amazing story in this second instalment…
Timisa spent her first night with Joshua, our elephant handler, who took the first shift. I stayed with them until just after 1 am, and at this point Timisa was still wide awake. Whenever she tired, she would lie next to either me or Joshua, but would quickly get up before sleep overtook her. I returned at 5am to find that neither she nor Joshua had slept a wink. It seems she didn’t trust herself (or us) enough to fall asleep just yet. Tigere took over from Joshua at 5am. By now she was used to both Joshua and I, but was unimpressed with the new person in her space.
The elephants left the stables shortly before 6am for their daily activities. Tigere and I decided that it was time to introduce her to the herd. Moving her over to HESC (who has more advanced facilities for vulnerable orphans) was not an option for me as she was already feeding herself on solids – she’s a keen eater and drinks enough water. Being in a semi-natural environment with her own kin was the outcome we wanted.
Timisa’s introduction to the herd
Later in the day, we gathered the Camp Jabulani elephant herd just outside the stables and escorted the little one out of the shed down the hill to the waiting elephants… waiting but unaware of what was coming their way. We initially covered her eyes to minimize her stress, but this young lady is no wilting flower! She started to ‘trot’ downhill at a pace, and the towel was soon in her wake. We turned her to the left side to introduce the herd one by one, as we had done with Jabulani years ago; but being the strong-willed baby that she is, she turned and decided to walk to the other side of the herd. This could have gone either way, and it was with pounding heart that we waited to see what the trumpeting and agitated elephant mass would yield – a baby dead or alive? We were relieved…. Timisa turned around again and went straight to Fishan. Fishan is mammoth in size compared to this little one, and was trumpeting the loudest. At this stage I thought, what will he do with her? She was undeterred.
Fishan simply took his trunk and brought her under his huge bulk in a protective gesture. Soon after this Tokwe and Lundi joined, and the rest of the herd followed, forming in a close circle around the little elephant. The herd was still trumpeting so loud, we all had goosebumps and were choked with tears. It was surreal! Timisa then attached herself to Tokwe, and this mother-of-our-herd stopped to let the baby drink.
I hadn’t planned for this swift introduction, but then again I also hadn’t planned on taking in an orphaned elephant the evening before. Life does not always go according to plan…
As the day drew to a close, both man and elephant in our happy space were beyond emotion. I was validated about my life’s purpose… THIS is why I do what I do!
The little one leads the herd
Tokwe, Lundi and Limpopo could not stop touching and stroking Timisa; if she was not underneath them, they were feeling and caressing her with their trunks. Whenever she stopped, the whole herd would gather around her, except for Zindoga and Mambo. They must have either felt threatened by her, or just annoyed at having to share the spotlight. As with most babies, she would put anything in her mouth, and was super-curious about her environment – sniffing the area around her constantly. At one stage Sebakwe (our Amarula celebrity) knelt in front of her, looking her in the eye. We will never know what they shared during that moment, but can only guess…
We followed the herd as we observed the interactions between elephants who have all come from different backgrounds, but have found a home here at Camp Jabulani. The herd continued walking for miles that day, making several stops at new pools of water that the recent rain had left us with, and using the opportunities for the little one to rest and drink.
Later in the afternoon, we decided to split the herd, keeping the females with the baby on the one side, and the bulls a few meters away. The little one didn’t take a nap or lie down once during that day, but she was feeding well and tried feeding from both Tokwe and Lundi a few times (although both of their babies are older, they may well still have a bit of milk left in them). The milk we have been able to get from them for our milk formula research analysis has been extremely watery, so we knew we would have to closely monitor Timisa as elephant calves are prone to glycaemia.
The naming process
Most of the elephants in the Camp Jabulani herd were named after rivers from the areas in which they came in Zimbabwe. Klaserie and Limpopo are also named after rivers, but within the Limpopo province in South Africa.
I afforded Michelle Henley from Elephants Alive the honour of naming this little one, as it is thanks to her that the young orphan found her new home at Camp Jabulani. Michelle named her Timisa, which means ‘courageous’ in XiTsonga. This is such an appropriate name for her, as it took courage for her to survive. Her fighting spirit was clear from the moment we met her.
My mother always reminds me that nothing was planned. Jabulani’s arrival; the elephants from Zimbabwe; Kumbura who also arrived as an orphan in 2008; and now Timisa. Although Camp Jabulani is stopping elephant safaris, this does not mean that the elephants will be forgotten. This herd will still play an important role in the lives of other orphans, just like Timisa.
We will keep you posted on both Timisa’s unique journey, as well as that of our very special Camp Jabulani herd.