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.
[sa-lee] Meaning Princess in Hebrew
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.
[naan-dee] 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.
[t-han-dee] 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.
[kee-sha] 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.
[tah-toe] Meaning “love” 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.
[a-ma-ri] Meaning “princess”
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 and gentle elephant, often keeping to herself. However, as the self- appointed leader between her, Shanti and Madiwa, she is very observant and is always keeping an eye on her girls.
[sh-a-n-ti] Meaning “peace”
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 about two 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!
[mu-dee-wa] Meaning “darling” in Shona.
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 little 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.
Harry’s Herd is presently made up of nine elephants; 4 males and 5 females. They currently reside on a game reserve just outside of Plettenberg Bay.
This herd is quite unique as it includes big bulls Harry and Namib and a younger bull Gambo, but only because Matriarch Tosha allows it.
In 2013 Tosha and Harry had a baby girl Tembi.
Shortly after Tembi was born Tosha took in the 4 orphaned babies; 1 boy (Mpho) and 3 girls (Lundi, Kito and Ntombi).
Harry’s Herd is a true rainbow family! The youngsters are often observed stealing food out of Harry’s trunk, whilst cool uncle Gambo is hanging out with Mpho, Lundi and Ntombi. Tembi is a true mommy’s girl and is near inseparable from Tosha. After a good nights rest in the camp, the herd walks into the reserve every morning. It’s a wonderful sight to see, especially with big bull Namib walking alongside little Kito at the back of the group.
In the wild once young bulls reach a certain age and level of maturity (between the ages of 10 and 19 years) they are naturally pushed out of their herds.
Elephants are socially complex creatures and the misconception that bulls are antisocial and prefer to love a solitary life are far from the truth.
As young males leave their matriarchal herds, loose bachelor herds begin to form, and a dominance hierarchy is established according to the individuals’ strengths and dominant behaviour. Older elephants take on a teaching and leadership role within the herd as younger male elephants acquire many learned behaviours by observing their elders.
As we strive to give our elephants an as natural life as possible, we are constantly observing the social behaviours within the herd. As a result of this, the search for a new home for our two 14-year-old bulls began at the start of 2021.
After months of planning and preparation, Mashudu and Shungu arrived safely at their new home, Aquila Private Game Reserve on the 25th of October 2021 to join resident 26-year-old bull Mafu.
A bittersweet day for all, as “our boys” were suddenly all grown up. Shungu, our New Year’s Day baby who captured the hearts of everyone who met him and Mashudu, who had arrived at the Park when he was less than a year old and had been bottle-fed for the best part of 2 years, are now off on their own adventure.
In the first 24 hours after arriving at their new home, they had come across some strange looking grey creatures who could be described as rather fat unicorns! Having never come across a rhino before, they put on quite the display which included lots of ear flapping and a trumpet or two which had us all trying to hold back a laugh.
One of the most rewarding moments was when Mashudu and Shungu met Mafu for the first time, as they exchanged ‘elephant greetings’ by reaching out their trunks to one another. Mashudu, who could be rather pushy towards Shungu, as he was a fair bit bigger than him, was suddenly faced with the realisation that he was no longer ‘top dog’ as Mafu towered above him.
Seeing our boys standing next to Mafu was somewhat unreal as they seemed to have shrunk overnight and now looked like miniature elephants next to this gentle giant.
We are excited to watch them thrive in their new home that has a strict “no touch and interaction” policy and guests will only be able to see these majestic animals while on a game drive on this 10 000 hectare conservancy.