IMG_5368Buffelsdrift luxury safari lodge has three massive members of the team- our three elephants! If you’ve ever wondered what goes into our elephant experiences, or even why there’s elephants at our game lodge at all, you’re sure to enjoy this fun-filled look at the largest members of our little family.

Many Karoo game lodges have elephants roaming wild on the grounds, but our elephants are a little different. Here’s their story- and how you can meet them for yourself.

Buffelsdrift elephant experiences- the difference is in the love

Elephants. You can see them anywhere in Africa, right? Well, not quite, but there’s certainly a bunch of places throughout Southern Africa if you want to see elephants roaming.

We ask you to imagine this, however. A grown man, with his own concerns, sacrificing sleep night after night to wake up every 4 hours. Tenderly caring for tiny baby elephants as they slurp down 36L at every feed. Caring for, loving and bonding with these babies left orphaned, scared and alone, bewildered without their familiar herds and mothers.

That man is Joseph Maseko, and he is the Buffelsdrift elephant difference. We didn’t choose this life for our elephants- they were simply the sad ‘fallout’ from poaching activities, yet more innocent victims of this heinous activity. Without him, they would never have survived. Today, they are ‘his babies’ and family.

We didn’t choose this life for them, but we have done everything possible to give them their very best life regardless. Today, we use the help of these gargantuan members of the Buffelsdrift family to keep guests aware of the realities of poaching incidents happening daily, and the need to support conservation efforts. These are not ‘our elephants’. They are our family. They are Africa’s elephants.

Who are the Buffelsdrfit elephants?

The 3 babies we took in are now strapping teenagers of 17. Jabari (‘powerful) is the resident youngest child, a naughty trouble stirrer with an angelic face. Bulelo (‘thank you’) is a little older and growing into a powerful bull. Malaika’s name means angel, she’s the matriarch and commands her ‘brothers’ accordingly.

Do the elephant experiences benefit the elephants?

With Joseph Maseko protectively close, you know his (very large) little ones receive only the best for their needs, but do they actually enjoy human interaction? Elephants are very social beings, normally getting this social interaction from their herds. Raised acclimatised to humans by the need for bottle feeding, this is exactly why our three never could be rehabilitated into the wild. So, they don’t view human socialisation as abnormal- we are simply very small and strange members of the herd. They also get plenty of (safe) treats in the form of fruit and veggies when guests visit them, so, like any teenager getting something delicious, they’ll quickly be your friend!

Does Buffelsdrift do elephant conservation, too?

Given their tragic starts, there’s no way we could ignore the bigger issue of elephant conservation. Commercial farmers conflicting with natural elephant movement in the Kruger National Park brought the three orphans to us. Today, a herd of 125 free-roaming elephants in the Mangetti area of Namibia face a similar plight, conflicting with commercial farming interests. We donate a portion of the elephant experience funds to support conflict mitigation and research for the Mangetti ellies, as well as providing tracking collars and other technology to help keep the herd safe and contribute to our knowledge of these amazing animals.

Why elephant washing?Used Nov_Dec 19 IMG-20160107-WA0016

Perhaps your first reaction is, ‘Why would we wash wild animals!’ Elephants, in fact, love to be clean, and you’ve probably seen footage of them bathing- and squirting each other playfully- in the wild. Ellies also love to get dirty. The mud protects from flies and UV rays, cools them, and hey…it’s fun to play in! These are teenagers, after all. However, after a while the caked-on layer needs to be addressed for safety and hygiene. As we brush the mud from their skin, we also make sure they are safe, without sores or scratches. And when it comes to rinse time, well… they love to be cool and play in water, especially in our scorching hot summers. You’ll see Malaika actually close her eyes in joy, she loves the attention so much. Plus, of course, those scrumptious treats afterwards!

Aren’t ‘walking with wildlife’ experiences bad?

Many, sadly, are bad indeed. It’s important to realise that current conservation pushes to eliminate these types of experiences are critically important, and we at Buffelsdrift support them wholly. Many unethical ‘attraction providers’ acquire animals for these experiences (especially when it’s interaction with juveniles and babies) by ripping them out of the wild away from their parents, or by ‘farming’ wild animals in obscene conditions. Many- again, especially where young animals who will grow are concerned- are then sold off to unethical hunters, ‘canned hunting’ or body part trades. These despicable forms of ‘entertainment’ do nothing but line the pockets of greedy business people with no ethics and no interest in the animals or conservation.

If you want to engage in a wildlife interaction experience, then, it’s always wise to ask questions. Where did the animals come from? Why are they acclimated to humans? Why can’t they be released to the wild? What will happen to them over time? What else do the organisers do to support wild populations? Anyone with the animal’s best interests and conservation cares at heart will be more than happy to answer these, and more, just as we are.IMG_5376

What makes our experience different, then?

Once a wild animal is fully acclimated to humans, they can never be safely rehabilitated to the wild. Not only will they be all-to-trusting of other humans, they’ve also missed out on a lot of key socialising with wild members of their species, so they are likely to die or be killed shortly after release. While it’s never ‘ideal’ to not be able to rehabilitate an animal entirely, it often happens, especially with infants which have to be hand-reared and grow to see humans as their pack, herd or family. Conservationists will then take care to balance the natural, wild needs of the animal with their safety and best interests, in protected areas and reserves like Buffelsdrift.

For elephants, having a herd is a natural state of being, and these ellies were raised around people. They don’t have solitary nature, and interaction is a key part of their mental well-being. That’s why there’s three Buffesldrift elephants, too. You’ll notice that none of the elephant-related activities we offer go against their natural nature. There is no rides, tricks or other negligent practices that require ‘training’ or put the needs of humans ahead of the needs of the animal. The same goes on our elephant walks. Elephants are very human-like in their emotions, and if you study herds you’ll find some are shy wallflowers and some more outgoing. Our three are not only very confident, but they are definitely not shy either! They thrive on safe, constructive attention.

In the wild, an elephant herd roams far each day, and exercise is critically important to their health. They’re simply happy to have you along, enjoying their natural habitat too. We try to keep our elephants as free-roaming as possible to enjoy their bush surroundings, although they sleep in a camp to avoid poaching threats overnight.

Experience the Buffelsdrift elephants for yourself

Our Buffelsdrift Game Lodge elephant experiences are the perfect way to see these beautiful beings up-close-and-personal, and you’re sure to go home with a far greater sense of why wildlife conservation should be critically important to us all. If you’re keen to get started on your elephant adventure, costs range from R385 to R920, depending on the interactions you’re most keen to explore, and can easily be added to our other private game lodge specials. If you’d like to book, or want to know anything else about these beloved members of the Buffelsdrift luxury safari lodge family, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.