ZAMBEZI ELEPHANT TRAILS

A once in a lifetime insight into these gentle giants.

ZAMBEZI ELEPHANT TRAILS

Located just 10 km from Livingstone, Zambezi Elephant Trails has established Zambia’s first “Elephant Camp” – offering a once in a lifetime insight into these gentle giants. Together with this ecologically friendly method of game viewing, a strong emphasis is placed on an Elephant experience rather than just an Elephant ride and guests are encouraged to interact with these majestic and intelligent African mammals. The training techniques used by Zambezi Elephant Trails are based on the positive reinforcement method as opposed to the controversial “discipline and submission” technique commonly associated with Asian Elephants.

Our five African Elephants Mashumbi, Danny, Liwa, Madinda and Marula each offer two guests an unparalleled viewpoint of the mighty Zambezi River and surrounding bush area of Mosi Oa Tunya National Park. Nandi born to Liwa in 2004 and Sekuti the orphan now seven, will carry just one guest each. Our two youngsters Muyuni and Nyami accompany on the walk frolicking along with the herd.

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DANNY

Around 40 years old Danny is the dominant bull. He was rescued as a youngster in Mana Pools in the Lower Zambezi Valley during culling exercises during the 1960’s and 1970’s. While soft and gentle natured he also keeps the younger bulls in check.

BOP

Approximately sixty years old, Bop was also rescued in Mana Pools during the intense culling era of the 1960’s. Taken in and raised by local farmers whom thought it would be delightful to raise a calf. Little did they know how truly sizeable he would become! Bop is now retired, joining the elephants in the bush to live out his years as an old bull.

MADINDA

Our renowned ‘Dancing Elephant’, extremely intelligent, full of character. This 30+ year old bull was taken in after being abandoned by his herd in their long search for food and water during severe drought in Gonarezhou National Park during the 1980’s.

MASHUMBI

The Matriarch. Also a casualty of drought, she quickly gained respect as the leader once our core group of elephants came together. She will lead the herd in their daily routine of bathing in the Zambezi, foraging the bush or dozing in the shade of nearby Acacia trees.

LIWA

The glamour cow of the herd, this very social 34 yr old female will hum when contentedly munching on browse. She is one of the original elephants to be reared from orphan using the Positive Reinforcement System of Reward.

MARULA

Found and raised with Liwa, as low bull in their hierarchy he looks to her for companionship. Exuding a warmth and stability that all our calves find comforting, he is often seen with a young elephant around his feet.

NANDI

Daughter to Liwa, sired by our own Bop at three years old she has developed tusks. Although her mother is tusk less, Bop carries a stunning set of ivory. A small percentage of all African elephants will never grow tusks due to genetics.

SEKUTI

January 31st 2010 the elephants had been feeding on a nearby island. As handlers called the elephants in, they brought this less than a year old youngster with them. He had seemed to have been on his own for sometime though has settled nicely with the herd.

MUYUNI

Little bull, born 29 December 2013. He is a playful little elephant, crashing through the bush behind his mother Mashumbi. Often stopping to wallow in the mud. Muyuni, at two years old is a young bull we predict to be huge watching how fast he is growing. Son to our Matriarch Mashumbi. Can you see the small bulges on his top lip? Tiny tusks jutting through.

NYAMI

Born to Liwa on September 22 2014. This little lady has a sense of humour. We have quickly learned not to stand behind her as she has a fairly accurate backward kick. She is often seen in the mud rough housing with Muyuni. Nyami at just 18 months is the youngest in the herd. She is carefully looked after by mother Liwa, sister Nandi and Auntie Mashumbi.

RACHEL TEMBO

Rachel Tembo (‘Tembo’ also means elephant in our local language) grew up in Livingstone’s Ebenezer Orphanage. She is a trainee handler and has been with us since late 2012. We believe Rachel to be the first and only female elephant handler in all of Southern Africa.

FABIO MUJUTA

Fabio originally started working with us in the Boma but very quickly showed a keen interest in the elephants, so we moved him to working in the stables in 2010 and he has easily picked up the art of elephant handling.

JANI SIKABOWA

Jani Sikabowa a Livingstone local was promoted from within ZET for his reliability, hard work and a passion for elephants. Jani’s favorite’s (although it’s very hard to choose!) are the big boys, Danny and Bop.

KENWELL MULWANI

Kenwell Mulwani has been with Zambezi Elephant Trails just 18 months. As all new trainee handlers he works the stables for a minimum of six months so the elephants can get a sense he is part of the ‘herd’.

ELIAH CHIRAVA

Eliah has been with us for 10 years and has a long history of working with elephants, originally in Zimbabwe.

ROBERT FISHER

Robert is one of our head guides and has a huge amount of experience working with elephants.  Before joining us, he had worked at other highly regarded elephant camps such as Abu Camp in Botswana and Wild Horizons in Zimbabwe.

CHRISTOPHER MUBITA

Christopher has been with Zambezi Elephant Trails for 13 years. He had previously worked with horses. He is a senior handler with a great deal of respect for the elephants. Liwa, an adult cow has what can only be described as a crush on him, she openly flirts for his attention.

WILLIAM URERE

William Urere has been raised around elephants since birth. He grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe which took in orphaned elephants. His insight into elephant motivation has been invaluable.

KENNEDY NYAMBE

Kennedy Nyambe, like Christopher has a horse based background. As a senior handler he has spent many years with these elephants understanding how different they are and how they also need to be handled differently.

PEARSON MAWERE

Pearson is a Junior handler, he approached us with a keen interest in elephants, already being well versed in their herd structure and anatomy. Pearson’s background is wildlife tour guiding.

CONSERVATION THROUGH EDUCATION

Zambezi Elephant Trails hosts school children, local villages and more recently the elderly, in educational encounters with our herd of ten domesticated elephants.

By illustrating the positive elements of living in an elephant range area we hope to raise awareness about wildlife protection.

The program shows how elephants are an important keystone species in our environment and the role they play in the biodiversity of our ecosystem.

The highlight of the program is in meeting the elephants, touching, talking and feeding these gentle giants.

Our main objective is to pass on a better understanding that we need to peacefully co-exist and safeguard the wildlife in our areas for future generations.

TRAINING

Positive reinforcement is based on attention/affection and food. Each time the elephants do something they’ve been asked they receive a treat and praise. This is an extremely good way of training animals of such high intelligence.

Being such social and emotional animals they respond very well to this form of positive training. Our elephants have grown up with safe human support and know they are able to trust us.

We are fully committed to their care and current best practice protocols by international standards.

Our elephants have an average of twelve to twenty two years of safe commercial riding experience in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Elephants respond to affection and reward.
Each time they are asked to do something praise and a treat is given.

HERD STRUCTURE

Our elephants are considered an artificial herd. Mature bulls would generally not be seen with breeding cows for more than a few days at a time. A breeding herd would be led by usually the oldest and most mature cow that will direct the herd to food, water and safety.

A matriarchal herd would consist of close knit females, their daughters, sisters, cousins and immature males.

A bachelor herd is a mix of bulls that will travel together for short periods and may split up or come together loosely.

Our herd does have a matriarch whom is Mashumbi as well as Danny whom is the dominant bull.
Mashumbi will guide all of the elephants, whereas Danny will act as role model and keep the younger bulls in check.

The dynamics of our herd is generally stable with friendships, rivals and subtle jealousies arising every now and again. They always work it out amongst themselves.

We think we have struck the right balance with our elephants by providing a secure yet as natural as possible environment for them. We are rewarded with a healthy and we think content herd of elephants.

Dominant bull Danny with the massive tusks will keep all the younger bulls in line whilst tiny matriarch Mashumbi will lead all of the elephants in their daily activities in the bush and through the Zambezi.

HISTORY OF THE ELEPHANTS

Zambezi Elephant Trails was originally home to six adult tamed and trained elephants, all originating from Zimbabwe, they have been in Zambia since December 2002. This is also home to two calves Muynuni, a male born in January 2013 and Nyami born September 2014.

The original six adult elephants were orphaned at a very early age. Our two older bulls Danny and Bop, both approximately between 40 and 50 years of age were orphaned during culls in Zimbabwe in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. They were both found and rescued at Mana Pools National Park in the Lower Zambezi.

The younger elephants all between 30 to 38 years old, Mashumbi, Liwa, Madinda and Marula were left behind by their herds during severe drought and found in Gonarezhou National Park to the Southeast of Zimbabwe adjacent to the Kruger National Park in the 1980’s.

These elephant calves were taken in by local farmers whom hand reared and eventually trained them through positive reinforcement methods for good behaviour as they became bigger and stronger. This training method was developed by Clem Coetzee a pioneer whom sought alternatives to further culling of elephants. Eventually this led to the farmers riding the elephants and further extended to elephant back safaris.

Our original herd. From Left to right. Mashumbi, Marula, Liwa, Madinda, Danny and Bop.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF OUR ELEPHANTS

Our elephants have a one hour scheduled activity in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. The rest of the day is spent in the bush, crossing the Zambezi to islands across where food is plentiful.

The elephants are stabled only at night and once their saddles come off in the morning they are free to roam in the bush to play, bathe, feed and enjoy the lifestyle of any wild elephant. Our handlers do follow along to ensure their safety. When it’s time to come in we merely call them by name and ask them to go to the stables.

Our handlers work with the elephants on a rotation system whereby they change which elephant they work with on a daily basis. Elephants will bond very easily and firmly so this system ensures that they don’t bond with only 1 person too well (taking into account staff leave days etc). As the Elephants are all individuals, their characters vary hugely as does how they react to different people and handlers.

They feed naturally in the bush during the day; we supplement their diets in the stables at night as elephants spend up to 18 hours of their day feeding. Danny and Bop consume around 300 kg of food each day. The younger elephants feed on roughly 200 kg of food per day.

BIRTHS

  • Our first calf Chavaruka was born here to Mashumbi on November 7, 2004.
  • Our second calf Nandi was born April 13, 2007 to Liwa and sired by our own Bop.
  • Mashumbi’s second calf, Muyuni also sired by Bop was born 29th of December 2013.
  • Nandi now is showing tusks, her mother Liwa is tusk less though Bop has quite an impressive set of tusks.
  • Muyuni is a hearty little bull who follows, frolicking under the watchful eyes of his mother and older sister also developing tiny tusks, mother Mashumbi is also tusk less.
  • Around 3 % of all elephants remain tusk less in their lifetime. Studies have shown this is constant in areas of heavy poaching. Survival of the fittest!
  • September 22 2014: Liwa has given birth to her second female calf we have named Nyami after the Zambezi river god.
  • Nyami and Muyuni are great friends being so close in age. They roughhouse in the bush together playfully.

WEIRD AND WILD STUFF OUR ELEPHANTS DO

Our first calf was born here to Mashumbi on November 7, 2004. Mashumbi was taken by a bachelor herd of fourteen wild bulls in January of 2003 whilst out in the bush browsing. The bulls had mixed with all six of our elephants, after the handlers called each elephant out, the bulls had kept Mashumbi circled and began to charge our handlers refusing to give her up, it is very possible she was in oestrus at the time. The handlers tracked until nightfall though lost their trail in the rain soaked bush. This was the last we had seen of Mashumbi until 10 months later when she was spotted with, we believe, the same herd of bulls just down the road from Thorntree Lodge. We led all our elephants to where she was with the wild bulls that immediately moved off when they saw us. Mashumbi was called by name then recognized her familiar herd and walked forward to rejoin them. A long joyful and emotional reunion among the elephants followed. In the process of a general health check we had suspected she may be pregnant, later confirmed by our veterinarian. Mashumbi went on maternity leave in May and gave birth the following November. A fairly quick delivery and after a few first moments of anxiety, she has been a natural and excellent mother with Liwa following suit in her role as auntie.

Early evening January 31st 2010 the elephants had been feeding on Sekuti Island, directly across from our area, handlers came across early to call them back to the stables at last light. As the elephants swam across the Zambezi it was noticed there was an additional male elephant calf with them. This tiny calf less than a year old followed our matriarch Mashumbi and her daughter Chavaruka straight into the stables.

As we tried to separate them, other handlers went back across to the island to look for a herd to which he belonged. There were no other elephants on the island, checks with elephant population researchers revealed that no breeding herds had been discovered in the area for over two months. The calf should have still been nursing at this age but apparently had been on his own for some time as he had managed to learn to use his trunk to eat grass. He had shown some loss of condition, we treated him for some bumps and scratches. Our elephants had accepted him wholly; the Wildlife Authority had decided to leave him with us to be raised by our herd. We have named him ‘Sekuti’ after the island, he’s doing very well, we had continued to supplement his diet with nutrients he would normal whilst nursing. Sekuti joins the other elephants wherever they are and is learning good manners through positive reinforcement.

Sekuti, pictured here at 6 years came to us at under a year old. Brought in by our herd he now has a solid position within.

Mashumbi who was taken by wild bulls in 2003. She does still seem to have a gift for calling in wild bulls. Every now and again we find an extra young bull socializing with our elephants in the bush.

Calves in mud

PACKAGES & BOOKINGS

AM/PM Elephant Encounter

Refreshments provided
ZAWA park fees payable
Transfers included

Elephant interaction

Refreshments provided
Transfers excluded

Age Restriction
Minimum age is 10 years; guardians of minors (under 18) will be required to sign an indemnity form on behalf of the minors.  A Guardian must accompany children under the age of 16 throughout the trip.  No child rate.

PLEASE NOTE: $10pp ZAWA park fees are applicable on activities that take place in the National Parks, Rafting, Elephants, Wildlife Encounter, Game Drive and Sunset Cruise, depending on where you are staying, as this fee is included in some accommodation options, you will be advised at time of booking / enquiry.

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