As many are aware, we are Africa enthusiasts, especially the country of Botswana. We have been on extended safaris three times since 2013, and are headed back in a few weeks. We each have our favorites among the wildlife. Mine are the cats, especially cheetahs and leopards, and a sighting of these beautiful animals is a real thrill and a privilege. Karen, on the other hand, loves elephants – big, small, male, female, friendly…. or not, and we have seen them all.
In 2015 we spent three days at Abu Camp in the west Delta. They have a captive elephant population – six in number then, eight now. These magnificent creatures are “trained, not tame”, and spend their days in the bush and their nights in a boma. At that time the oldest at 50 was Cathy, the youngest at 16 months, Naledi (Star). Netflix has a documentary called Naledi, which is a fascinating story of this little elephant’s battle to survive. We were fortunate to ride (which is no longer allowed), walk, feed and interface with these delightful animals. Karen was quite adept at verbally getting Sharini to lift her trunk high, open her mouth wide and receive handfuls of pellets known as elephant candy. She was so adept that the main elephant handler, Boago (Bee) Poloko, offered her a job. We have since joked frequently with Bee via email and Facebook about her job, including through Bee’s nephew who we met at another camp in 2017.
About a year ago Bee and an associate left Abu to create an elephant orphanage, with the huge help of Debra Stevens and her husband Scott Jackson, who live in Dallas. They have been infatuated with Africa for many years, and Debra fell totally in love with Naledi early in the little elephant’s life; they are bosom buddies still today. So early last year Elephant Havens Wildlife Foundation was created, and funded via a active and successful funding drive by Debra and Scott.The mission of Elephant Havens is to preserve and protect the African elephant. Through habitat protection, community outreach and hand-rearing of young elephant orphans, Elephant Havens aims to become a leading voice in wildlife conservation awareness and wildlife protection.
A baby elephant orphaned in the wild simply cannot survive. Not only do they need milk from their mother often up to six years of age, they also need constant care and companionship. Elephant handlers care for their charges around the clock and sleep with them in their enclosure. The elephants are fed a special milk formula every few hours when they are very young. Gradually they are introduced to the grasses and other vegetation they will one day rely on.
The orphanage is built on 11 acres that are nestled along the banks of the Thamalakane River. It is an ideal place for young elephants to live and receive daily care and companionship until they are ready to be reintroduced to the wild. The site is only 35 minutes from Maun, a jumping off point for many safari excursions into the Okavango Delta, the Chobe, the Linyanti, the Kalahari and other wildlife rich regions. Besides welcoming visitors, the orphanage will be a venue for educational programs for locals and those passing through to the Delta. The elephants will bring income through jobs in the wildlife and tourism areas.
The orphanage has so far adopted three elephants. Two were quite ill when they arrived at Elephant Havens, and despite heroic efforts by the loving staff and a very capable veterinarian, they both succumbed to their illnesses. However, we have one beautiful young girl, Maamotse, and the facility and staff are positioned to accepting new arrivals any day. Let me introduce you to Maamotse:
We encourage everyone with an interest in wildlife conservation to consider supporting Elephant Havens. You can help by making a donation to the foundation (a 501C3 charity) though the website at http://www.elephanthavens.org.