Exciting new improvements are underway at the elephant stables. The elephants have grown in size exponentially since their arrival a decade ago, and these changes are extremely important for their mental and physical wellbeing.
The original stables took about 3 months to build in 2002. It was a push, with lots of long nights spent working under spotlights to get the job done, but they were finally completed on time. This was crucial as the 12 elephants were scheduled to arrive from Zimbabwe, where they had been rescued by imminent threat of death by war veterans. And let us not forget the young (and very small) Jabulani himself.
Upgrades to the stables include:
- Breaking down the internal structure of the stables, leaving just the external frame. This will also involve filling the holes and smoothing the surface where the original beams were concreted in.
- Erecting new 2.6m poles for the new structure.
- The sandy area inside the stables has been concreted in order to make cleaning easier, and the environment more hygienic.
- A ‘ramp’ will be erected around the stables (as the area is not level) to ensure the elephants are not injured when entering and exiting the area. The ramp is also a bit rougher in texture to prevent the pachyderms from slipping.
- For the two groups of elephants that are currently sleeping out in the open (fenced) areas, it is important to ensure that the new stable’s outdoor area is of a similar size. This will also involve assessing where the bulls sleep in relation to the females, and to gauge the ‘comfort’ distance they have already established between them.
The elephants’ stable area needs to be as spacious as possible to give them the freedom to choose between indoor or outdoor accommodations. The design will also allow for unexpected changes to be made fairly simply should certain dynamics change within the structure of the herd.
The new stables will consist of four independent areas under the current roof structure for shelter, each connected to an outdoor paddock area. This will allow the elephants freedom of movement between inside and out.
The elephants will be grouped at the end of each day, based on best personality fits (elephants, like humans, have favourites with whom they interact well. Conversely, they also have those they tend to clash with when confined together).
– Sebakwe, Setombe & Klaseri (The most impressive of the males, along with mother and baby)
– Bubi, Zindoga & Jabulani (Mother, baby and ‘herd hero’)
– Tokwe, Limpopo, Pisa, Lundi, Mambo, Kumbura & Samopane (“The herd moms”, kids and gentle giant)
– Fishan (‘Lone Ranger’)
All the old pole work, water troughs and feeding troughs will be removed. Each paddock will have a new water trough in the paddock area to prevent unnecessary mess under cover. The feeding spots for the elephants will need to increase accordingly to the number of elephants in a paddock, to ensure that all elephants receive enough food during the night, and that one elephant with a ‘healthier appetite’ does not dominate a food pile.
These upgrades are expensive, and are coming in at approximately R400 000 for labour and material. A construction team has been employed, including 17 labourers.
There is also a dedicated team of staff which is responsible for cleaning the stables every day, and for maintenance duties when required. This recurring cost for labour and material is approximately R40 000 per month, excluding stable hands who assist with cutting branches.
It is an expensive affair taking care of the Camp Jabulani elephants, but worth every penny!
We will keep you posted as to developments, but have included a few images of the progress so far.