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Follow the leader was a fun childhood game we used to play in school at recess time. However, what if it was no longer a game? What if the safety and livelihood of others were in your hands? What if they were completely dependent on your leadership skills? Being a leader is seen as admirable, but the job can be quite demanding when everyone expects you to know what is best.

 

Mother Tokwe, Camp Jabulani’s very own matriarch, is given the task of being the leader for her herd members every single day. She has earned not only the herds’ trust over the years, but their complete devotion to her as their matriarch.

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At day break, the grooms wake the sleeping elephants and prepare them for their venture into the bush. Tokwe is always ready at her home gate, waiting patiently for her fellow family members to fall in line behind her. Once everyone has gone through their check over, to make sure everyone is feeling “fit and strong”, as the grooms like to say, they are ready to make their way! Mother Tokwe waits for the grooms signal and lets out a low deep rumble, which echoes throughout the herd. Like a freight train, the elephants slowly begin to chug along. Bubi or Lundi usually bringing up the caboose while Tokwe powers ahead from the front.  Into the deep bush they go, separating from their neat line, each choosing their own special bush to feed on. Tokwe moves on ahead until she finds the perfect hillside to eat on top of. Once she reaches the top, she looks down over her family, slowly scanning the horizon to make sure every member is in view. Only then, will she begin to help herself to the nearest bush.

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Tokwe is not only an amazing leader, but she is also an adoring mother. Tokwe has not only had two daughters of her own, Limpopo and Pisa, but she has opened her heart to orphaned Jabulani, Kumbura and Timisa. Her love for all of the babies in the herd know no bounds as she checks on each one continuously throughout the day. The most special moment I have witnessed with Tokwe, was on one of the hottest days of this year. Little Timisa had just begun to gain the confidence to venture through the bush on her own. Timisa was so excited to be a big girl on her own, that she accidentally walked a little too far from the herd and stood in the heat of the sun with no shade to protect herself. Little Timisa began to grow too hot and weak and let out a meek cry for help. Tokwe came in a flash, barreling down bushes and trees in her path to her baby. Tokwe immediately caressed the young Timisa with her trunk, letting out a thunderous rumble to the rest of the herd. With haste, each elephant responded to Tokwe’s call and began to circle around her and the baby, creating a wall of shade from the harsh African sun. Tokwe gently laid Timisa down in the cooling sand beneath her feet, stroking her slowly with her trunk while the baby fell asleep. It is truly amazing to witness such gentleness and compassion from such a massive, powerful animal.

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At Camp Jabulani, we greatly admire Tokwe’s strength and she reminds us daily how fortunate we are to have the greatest matriarch in the world.

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