An Elephant’s kiss

July was the month each year that a group of, usually, four bulls came through from Nxai Pan to the Okavango Delta, passing our river home. The visit was usually at night; tearing down foliage near the fence and depositing their visiting cards. But in the morning there would only be the vegetative wreckage and the fibrous steaming puddings to see. In September 1999 a small breeding herd passed by with calves, using the nearby pool as a mud bath.

Kiss for Sheila 1994

Sheila Earle

An unforgettable invitation to visit Doug and Sandi Groves in the Delta, and overnight there in our tent demands a tribute and another note of appreciation. These two incredible human beings have given their lives to the care of three elephants.



I quote from other sources here:

The elephants at Grey Matters:
There are three trained elephants with Doug and Sandi at the moment; all are orphans from culling programmes:
Jabu is short for Jabulani, which means happiness; he was born in about 1986 and orphaned when two by a cull in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. He is described as a proud bull who enjoys leading this small herd – playful, dependable, and the most independent and confident member of the herd. He now stands about 2.9m tall at the shoulder.
Thembi, a smaller female, is about the same age as Jabu, and was also orphaned by a cull in the Kruger. She’s said to be smart and very social, and loves being the centre of attention. Originally a very insecure calf, she’s gradually becoming much more confident.
Morula came to Doug in 1994 as a maladjusted 17-year-old, lacking confidence and with a troubled background. Doug comments that she started off being exceedingly submissive to him and the other elephants, but then vented frustrations on trees. He adds that she’s gradually become more secure and relaxed here.

The Living with Elephants Foundation was launched in 1999. The charity is dedicated to creating harmonious relationships between people and elephants. Living with Elephants also works to secure the long term future of its elephant ambassadors. Elephants can live for 70 years so when Doug and Sandi adopted Jabu, Thembi and Morula, they knew they were making a life-long commitment to the trio – and that the trio would probably outlive the Groves by decades.

Doug's JumbosThe obvious bond between human and animals was jaw-dropping. Sheila and I were treated by Doug to walk with the trio as they browsed, explaining their diet, physiology and characters.

Doug 1994-Jabu

Jabu with Doug Groves

They are not beyond teasing their bipedal friends. I can’t remember who it was, now, but when they all went for a swim in a pool, one of them refused to follow the others out at Doug’s command, squirting trunkfuls of water and dodging to the far side of the pool to avoid Doug until she tired of the game, to Doug’s relief. It was time to return them to their boma and feed them mophane branches that had been cut and fetched from further afield for their evening meal. Their area was a bit denuded at the time.



To this day, walks with this trio can be arranged.

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 6 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom - #1' 'Medicinal Purposes Only - #2', and 'Children Apart - #3; and 'Tribes of Hillbrow'; all from Southern Africa.
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