Our Orphans



Gavin, Rastas and kids


On the 29th January 2001, a young, (very young) elephant, Rastas, came crashing into our lives.

Rastas was abandoned on a nearby farm and Elephant Camp was contacted to see if we’d try and shoulder the dilemma that finding a baby elephant can cause. He was loaded into a truck and brought back to the camp. As he was found on the Erasmus farm, they asked us to name him RASTAS and so he was. Rastas was still pink behind his ears and his little pads of his feet were as soft as a babe’s. He spent the first night in the back of the truck with our grooms taking shifts at comforting him. In the morning we introduced Miss Ellie and the result was phenomenal to witness. She was trying to hold him, sit on him, lift him and basically mother him to death! All the males showed a bored kind of interest. If only this close contact had brought Miss Ellie into lactation, our lives would still be our own!

So began the trials and tribulations. Eventually we settled on a mixture used by someone who had successfully reared orphans – skimmed milk, glucose, vitamin C, multivitamins, calcium, and coconut are the basic ingredients. We remember the glee we felt when he polished off the first bottle and progressed to 6 per day! Little did we know that within 5 months Rastas would be on to 40 litres a day – 20 x 2 litre bottles! He sucked so hard on the bottles that within a week they were reduced to carrying only 1 ½ litres! The mixing up of the formula was a job in itself – the grinding of the vitamins which are rock hard and led to many broken coffee grinder blades, snapped liquidiser blades, ruined bottles as liquefied calcium turns to cement etc..

Our house looks and smells like a nursery with 25kg bags of skimmed milk and tons of glucose containers all over. The fine powder caused by crushing the vitamins by hand results in a powder snow covering everything and lines of 2 litre bottles soaking coconut, line all available empty spaces. But the bonus was RASTAS himself. Gavin spent a lot of time with Rastas, teaching him how to play as he would in a herd. They love wrestling on the ground, playing with tyres and rubbing against cars, turning over wheelbarrows and wallowing with someone in the mud. RASTAS, as with the other orphans, has 3 extra keepers employed for round the clock care. He feeds only from them and needs them by his side constantly.

An interesting fact: Rastas drank 1.3 tonnes of skimmed milk powder before he was weaned at two years old!!!! 1/2 tonne of glucose, 24 kgs of vitamin C and calcium, 12 000 multivit tablets and 25 kg of coconut (for his moisturising!!!)

Rastas has become the new addition to the adult herd as his precocious teenage years needed a little taming after he was in charge of the "brat pack" and becoming very boisterous and difficult for the handlers to now control. With his one torn ear (from being spiked by Janet when he was trying to steal her cubes) he is now as tall and rangy as a teenager, is but has taken to life with the adults extremely well. In 2010 Rastas was released back into the wild in Hwange National Park. He is now free to be a wild elephant once again.