In August 2009, Camp Jabulani got a call from Nature Conservation authorities about a tiny baby elephant which had been seen wandering on a private game reserve in Botswana, alone with no sight of mother or herd. Although it will never be known for certain what happened to the youngster’s family, it is assumed that her mother had been shot by poachers, and that she had been abandoned.
The Camp Jabulani team (comprising Paul Coetzee and Joshua Dube) did not hesitate, and made their way up north almost immediately. It took two long and stressful days to find the tiny elephant, and to capture her so that she could be brought back to South Africa.
Kumbura shortly after she was found and sedated in Botswana
This baby was wild and traumatised, and would panic if people got too close to her (supporting the view that her mother was poached, and she had probably witnessed it). When she first arrived at Camp Jabulani in August 2009, she was not in a good state and was severely dehydrated. Dr. Rogers was called in, and managed to stabilise and rehydrate her. The real challenge lay in getting her to eat. She did not like the milk formula, and none of the females in the Camp Jabulani herd wanted to feed her. Hopes were not high that the hapless young creature would survive.
But survive she did! According to Tigere, Kumbura is with us today purely because of the comfort she received from the other baby elephants.
Accepting humans was another story! She wanted nothing to do with people and would not join the other elephants when the handlers called. She stayed in the furthest corner of the paddock, and avoided even looking at the grooms. She was angry and she was lonely.
But through patience, perseverance and infinite care, the elephant handlers proved to her that they would not hurt her. They worked tirelessly to gain her trust, and she was given a lot of love and care, and fed nutritious foods including oranges (her favourite) and vegetables. After a year she eventually began to soften and respond to her human caregivers’ advances.
Seen here is Kumbura shortly after she arrived at Camp Jabulani – tucking into fresh oranges fed to her by Paul Coetzee
Kumbura was “adopted” by Lundi and Tokwe, two of the larger and older females in the herd. Although some of the younger elephants used to bully her (especially Mambo), she found a gentle guardian angel in the form of Sebakwe, the dominant bull. She would scuttle on over to him when Mambo approached, and he would stand over and protect her.
Kumbura is now in beautiful condition. She is a simple elephant, and thrives on attention. She loves spending time with Tokwe and Pisa, and you will always find her walking in their wake. She is identified by her tiny little trunk, and smaller thinner tusks. She is slightly taller and leaner than the other young elephants, has a longer neck, and some areas on her ears are endearingly pink.
Kumbura means ‘remembrance’, and is a tribute to the late Johan Roode who passed away in the same month as the one in which Kumbura arrived.
Says Tigere, “I think she will become one of the best elephants in this herd. Because she now knows and believes that she is unconditionally loved”.
We are continuously amazed at how human these animals really are. All that really matters is love!