Last November, Camp Jabulani received an urgent call from Elephants Alive about an elephant calf found wandering on its own. It was speculated that the mother may have died two weeks prior. The calf was estimated to be about two years old, and likely to be weaned, and was to join the resident elephant herd at Jabulani.
A makeshift boma was quickly constructed with a heater. Soon after, a sedated baby elephant arrived in the back of a 4×4. The resident elephant herd had not yet returned from their day out on the reserve, but were due back soon. The herd could however, hear the young calf trumpet.
About two hours later the calf was moved into a shed. She was led out of her temporary boma, and as she walked passed the other elephants started trumpeting and became quite inquisitive.
Having now had the opportunity to see and observe her, and the fact that she had not yet developed any tusks, her age was estimated to be about 10 months old. She was thin but not weak, and clearly had a very strong will to survive. Michelle Henley from Elephants Alive named the baby Timisa – which means courageous in XiTsonga.
Timisa did not sleep on her first night as it seemed she didn’t trust herself (or her caregivers) enough to fall asleep.
Timsa’s introduction to the elephant herd
Later in the day, the Camp Jabulani elephant herd was gathered just outside their camp. Initially Timisa’s eyes were covered to minimize her stress. She started to ‘trot’ downhill at a pace, and the towel was soon in her wake.
She was turned to her left side to introduce the herd one by one, but being the strong-willed baby that she is, she turned and decided to walk to the other side of the herd. It was with a pounding heart that everyone waited to see what the trumpeting and agitated elephant mass would yield. There was relief as Timisa turned around again and went straight to Fishan – a mammoth figure in comparison, and one who was trumpeting the loudest.
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Fishan simply took his trunk and pulled her under his huge bulk in a protective gesture. Soon after this the rest of the herd followed, forming in a close circle around the little elephant. The herd was still trumpeting and everyone present had goosebumps. Timisa then attached herself to the mother of the herd.
What a moment it was to observe the interactions between elephants who have all come from different backgrounds, but have found a family and a home at Camp Jabulani. Timisa is thriving with her new herd.
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Fun facts about how elephants communicate with each other
Animal fact guide has put together a number of fascinating facts about this magnificent mammal. To read more, go to Animal Fact Guide.
- Ears are used to communicate. Flapping ears can signify either aggression or joy.
- Ears, used in conjunction with the soles of their feet and their trunk, aid in elephant’s ability to hear sounds over long distances.
- On average, an elephant can hear another elephant’s call at 4km away. Under ideal conditions, their range of hearing can be increased to 10km.
- Although elephants can make a very wide range of sounds (10 octaves), they mostly communicate through low frequency sounds called rumbling.
- Elephants are capable of producing and perceiving sounds one to two octaves lower than the human hearing limit.
- Communication is vital to elephants, who rely on a social network for survival.
- The sustaining social unit is a herd of mothers and their young, sisters, and female cousins, led by an older matriarch.
- Male elephants will leave the herd at around 14 when starting puberty. They then join a loose-knit band of other bull elephants, leaving the bachelor herd at will to search for potential mates.
- Upon successful mating, the male elephant will move on to other herds, and the female will start a 22-month gestation period. When the calf is born, aunts, sisters, and cousins all help care for the new-born. In this way, all the elephants of the herd learn essential lessons in rearing a baby. And since elephants only give birth once every 5 years, successfully raising of offspring is critical to survival.
- Aside from their ability to learn through watching and mimicking, African elephants also have great capacity for compassion, which is demonstrated as they care for the wounded and grieve the deceased.
- Their developed sense of memory allows them not only to remember lost loved ones, but also to harbor grudges, and recognise long-lost friends.
- Upon the return of a friend, elephants take part in a joyous greeting ceremony where they spin in circles, flap their ears, and trumpet.
Read about the iSimangaliso elephants.