Our resident herd consists of our adult and adolescent female elephants and the youngsters. They are all guided through their daily activities by matriarch Sally who was the first elephant to arrive at the Park in 1994. Visitors to the Park are privileged to interact with this herd during the day, gaining unique insight into how elephants eat, play and socialise. Each elephant holds a special place in the herd, depending on their age and social standing. This matriarchal herd structure is unique to KEP – not many other facilities in South Africa have a group that is similar to the herd structure seen in wild elephant herds and includes matriarchs, mothers and daughters, allo-mothers and adolescent young males finding their feet! Our facility also offers the ability to give our older bulls more space, away from the matriarchal herd. In the wild, at a certain age, elephant bulls are kicked out of the breeding herd by the dominant female. These young males join up to form small ‘bachelor herds’. At KEP we try to emulate that natural progression by managing the males separately; and not forcing them to remain part of the herd where they would be dominated and uncomfortable.
Meet The Elephants
Born in October 1989. Came to Knysna Elephant Park in October 1994 from Kruger National Park. Sally is the “Big Mamma” of the Park. She is the matriarch (leader) of the herd – she is gentle but stern and is always very concerned about the welfare of the other elephants. Sally has never had any calves and we can only assume she is infertile. She is however an excellent mother figure to the others.
Meaning “a sweet thing” in Zulu. Born in February 1993. Came to Knysna Elephant Park in 2002 from the Northern Province. Nandi’s name originates from that of the mother of legendary Zulu leader, King Shaka. Her temperament is similar to that of Shaka Zulu’s mother, who was known to be a very strong-willed lady! Nandi is the mother to Thandi, the first-born calf at the Park. She has been an exceptionally good mother.
Meaning “love” in Zulu. Born 16 October 2003 at Knsyna Elephant Park. As the first calf born at the Park, Thandi is truly our pride and joy. In the first month or two of her life she kept very close to her mother’s side. As she has grown up, Thandi has taken a particular interest in the youngest elephants at the Park. We believe she has been practising her mothering skills.
Meaning “favourite” in Swahili. Born December 2003. Came to Knysna Elephant Park January 2004. Keisha was very close to dying when she first arrived. The holes in her ears were caused by the other elephants in a translocation that had pushed her away as she tried to suckle after her mother died. With a lot of love and care at Knysna Elephant Park, Keisha made a full recovery and settled into her new home very well. She is quiet and gentle and tends to be a loner.
Meaning “patience” is Shona. Born 1 January 2007 at Knysna Elephant Park. He is 7 years old. Shungu’s name was given to him because nobody knew exactly when his, Thambile, had fallen pregnant, so this meant patiently awaiting his arrival. He is a very naughty, playful elephant with a great sense of humour. As a little baby, he used to love chasing guinea fowl and he could often be heard trumpeting out in the fields as flocks of birds flew for their lives.
Meaning “love or beloved” in Tswana. Born February 2008. Came to Knysna Elephant Park in May 2008. Thato is the youngest elephant at Knysna Elephant Park. Thato arrived at the Park along with Mashudu. Her parents were killed on a hunting farm in the North West Province and the authorities chose us to be her new guardians. As a baby, she absolutely loved being bottle fed. She would often take control of the bottle herself without anyone having to hold it for her.
Meaning “lucky” in Venda. Born July 2007. Came to Knysna Elephant Park in May 2008. Mashudu also comes from a hunting farm in North West Province where his mother suffered the same fate as Thato’s. He is a typical little boy – full of zest and energy, and he can often be seen playing with Shungu.
Madiwa arrived with Amari and Shanti at the park in May 2017. She originates from the same farm as Thato and Mashudu, but is slightly older than them – estimated date of birth for her is 2005. Madiwa is the brave one of the three and is always the first to try something new and bold. She enjoys spending time with the two boys, Mashudu and Shungu. Her name means “Darling” in Shona, which is very apt as many people fall in love with her instantly.
Shanti arrived at the park along with Amari and Madiwa in May 2017. She is from the same reserve as Amari and is thought to be 2 years younger than her. Shanti is quite the rebel, often just taking charge and doing her own thing. She’s also very greedy, often gobbling away when she finds something good and is always happy to get some treats her way!
Originally from a reserve near Hoedspruit, Amari arrived at the park with Shanti and Madiwa in May 2017. She is thought to have been born in about 2000. Like Keisha, she is a quiet, gentle elephant, often keeping to herself. However she is the self- appointed leader between the three of them. She is very observant and is always keeping an eye on her ‘girls’.