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July 5, 2019

Ethical elephant experiences?

Yes, please!

Buffelsdrift Game Reserve’s friendly elephant experience is truly a world-leader in conservation, ethical wildlife practices and so much more, and today we’re here to update you on the antics of our largest team members once again.

I’ve heard trained elephant experiences are bad?

You’ll see ‘trained’ elephants used as a drawcard in many unethical wildlife scenarios. These training methods are typically horrific, and should certainly be avoided by all ethical tourists.The Buffelsdrift elephant experience is a conservation-focused practice, however. Our ellies aren’t ‘trained’ for your entertainment, nor were they stolen from their wild homes just to be at the lodge. All 3 of our elephants were rescued as orphans, their parents slaughtered through illegal poaching activities. This need to raise them on the bottle from tiny babies means they were never suitable for re-release into the wild, as they had become too habituated to human company. Joseph Maseko, their habitual handler at the reserve, had the ...dare we say elephantine… task of dispensing 36 litres of formulated milk every 4 hours through their infancy- can you imagine the love and dedication needed! He continues to care for them with the same love and absolute devotion today, and remains a stalwart of our conservation team.The Buffelsdrift elephant team, now happy ‘teenagers’ or 15-16 years old, free-roam on the reserve during the day, and spend their nights in a protected camp to keep them safe from poachers.

So what is the Buffelsdrift elephant experience like?

Due to their hand-rearing as youngsters, the Buffelsdrift elephants are very calm around people, and have been fully acclimated to our presence. This is why these magnificent creatures cannot be returned to a truly wild environment. You’ll be able to witness their loving bond with their handler- reinforced only positively at all times- for yourself. You may even get a ‘hug’ from their trunk yourself! We allow the public to interact with them through a guided feeding experience, or you can undertake a walk and feed or bush and feed package to learn more about these gentle, remarkable giants. A portion of all proceeds from these go back to the local community through our school sponsorship program, as well as our conservation efforts.There’s no real way to describe the magic of encountering these magnificent animals up-close-and-personal, so we won’t even try! Here’s what one of our happy visitors had to say about their time spent with the elephants:Big, Strong and Fearless. Those are the words that come to mind when you hear the word Elephant.But when you get to be up close and personal with these amazing giants, those words just fade away. To experience the Elephant Feeding at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge is an amazing experience. When I was told that my mom and I would get to meet Jabari, Malaika and Bulelo we were so ecstatic. On the way down to the feeding area our guide was so excited to have the honour of introducing us to Jabari, Malaika and Bulelo. Once we got into the area and saw them we were all in awe of these beautiful giants… To get to stand in front of each one and hand them a piece of butternut was eye-opening, they would be so gentle and always happy to give hugs as a Thank You. To see my mom laugh and get hugs from each one was amazing. Everyone should add the Elephant Experience to their bucket-list!

What conservation efforts do the elephant experiences support?

With our own elephants the sad second-hand victims of poaching, this remains a central focus of our elephant conservation efforts. The Buffelsdrift N/a’an Kusê foundation helps support the elephants of the Mangettia (North-Eastern Namibia) against poacher incursions through ‘collar’ non-intrusive monitoring, GPS and community conflict management. We’re also working on deploying camera traps, drones and other items to help conservationists help the herd without interfering with their wilderness activities. “N/a’an Kusê” means “God will protect us”, and we are proud the foundation offers hope and recourse for these super-special mammals.Come experience the majesty of our 3 biggest teenagers for yourself, and help promote ethical tourism and elephant conservation throughout Africa. The magic of these gentle giants is sure to win you over too!

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