For our last day at Abu, we spent as much time as we could with the elephant herd. There are six currently in the herd, all females.
Cathy, the herd’s matriarch, is over 50 years old. She was taken from Uganda as a youngster and spent years in a zoo/circus before she returned to Abu Camp and became the herd’s matriarch.
Shirheni, which means “where the old cows meet,” is a clever, funny elephant who loves to play tricks. She steals hats from tourists, having learned that when she puts them back on their owners’ heads, she often gets treats! She also tries to get treats by: blowing kisses with her trunk, splashing water, and helpfully picking up objects from the ground.
Lorato, or “love,” was born near Valentine’s Day. She’s the only left-handed elephant in the herd. Yes, elephants are handed – they always curl their trunk the same direction when pulling up roots and leaves, and the muscles on the underside of the trunk are noticeably larger on one side than the other.
Paseka joined the Abu herd after being attacked by hyenas as an infant. The Abu staff, with a strict policy of not meddling in the wild, did not interfere in the fight. But Paseka hid behind the Jeep and tracked it all the way back to camp, where she hid in the generator room overnight. The staff decided she had chosen to join them, and cared for her wounds. She’s now a healthy young adult who loves to uproot huge branches and then eat only a little from each. What a diva!
Warona, meaning “for us,” is Shirheni’s daughter, a mischievous two-year-old who is just like a human being in her playfulness and curiosity. She loves bothering her little sister and mugging for treats.
Naledi, or “bright morning star,” is only six months old. Since her mother died, she’s being bottle fed a special mixture of infant formula, glucose, roughage, dried coconut (for fat), and powdered bones (for magnesium and calcium), over 44 liters per day! She’s a bit more coddled than other elephants, and she will try anything – including climbing in a canoe! – to avoid having to go through water.
I am so thankful to the Abu staff and herd for letting us get to know these brilliant, beautiful creatures.