Our story with elephants starts nearly 30 years ago in Zimbabwe when Rory Hensman was given "unmanageable" elephants to train. Since then, more than 30 elephants have been rescued and trained for educational purposes in the name of conservation. We have also loved and cared for countless other animals like warthogs, kudu and steenbok to name but a few. Today we care for 7 elephants, 3 females, 2 males and our two little babies Bela and Zambezi, at Adventures with Elephants.
Our training methods are a combination of verbal commands and praise, body language and aids, targeting, clickers and of course food rewards. All our training is carried out with the utmost respect for our charges. Just like a happy cow will produce more and better quality milk, a happy elephant will help us show him/her off to our guests.
Keeping our elephants healthy, happy and stimulated is an absolute priority for us at AWE and we work continuously on building and keeping trust and rapport between us and our charges. When not interacting with the public the elephants are left to be elephants on our 300ha game reserve where they can free range feed, play, or bathe. Besides making sure they exercise regularly, and are well fed and watered, we use daily training and props like balls to keep them mentally agile and used to small things around their feet.
We supplement their diets with Bana grass, oats and lucerne, game pellets, fruit and vegetables during the year and conduct daily health checks. They sleep in large stables where they are monitored, protected and fed throughout the night.
Besides elephants, a visit to AWE almost always includes a cuddle with our 4-year old resident meerkat, Trouble, who was given to us by the neighbouring reserve when the Alpha female of the group threatened to kill her.
Bela is the newest addition to our family. She was born on the 23rd September 2016, to Mother Mussina & Dad, Chova. The name Bela was given to her because she was born in the Bela Bela area.
Mussina is an amazing Mum and so protective of her little girl - it really has been an honour to be a part of this special moment.
Zambezi is the 2nd youngest member of our family and was born in October 2015. His parents Chova and Shan have been in our care for many years. He is named Zambezi because it was our father, Rory Hensman's favourite place in Africa.
As a little baby he is strong and goal-oriented and it's a treat to watch him learn how to use his trunk.
Mussina, our 14 year old female is the natural leader of the group. She is happy to walk out in front and on her own. She helped Chova when he cut his trunk and collected branches for him, feeding him on occasion.
During her early years in Mooketsi she would herd the cattle on her own without needing guidance from the handlers.
Shan is our 17 year old female. She may be related to Miss Ellie, the very first elephant we ever rescued in Zimbabwe.
She is very responsive but being the oldest female of the group doesn't like to play much.
This beauty is our accident prone 15 year old female with a good sense of humour. Since she's still young she's pushy for food but is a lovely elephant and a fast learner.
Nuanedi cut her trunk on a loose wire. The cut never closed completely and top veterinarians were not able to stitch the hole. However she's learnt to overcome her small problem with her good sense of humour.
This is our 20 year old dominant bull with the short trunk and the insatiable water spraying habit!
He lost his trunk several years ago and despite the pain allowed us to clean and dress his wound. During his recovery he found and fed on certain plants which we found out later had healing properties. He recovered fully from his injury and can still feed really well.
This is our magestic 18 year old male. He was the first elephant to take food from our hands and trusted us quickly. He is kind and a fast learner and has featured in a number of films and documentaries.
Shannon Wild, a well known wildlife photographer in South Africa, spent some quality time with our gentle giants recently. Watch the film and get a glimpse of who they are.