Michelle Henley from Save the Elephants (STE) kindly agreed to host four children from the Children in the Wilderness (CITW) Eco Clubs on an elephant educational following a re-collaring exercise at Pafuri Camp. The re-collaring was a collaboration between STE, South Africa National Parks (SANParks) and Wilderness Safaris. We invited one child from each primary school in the Makuleke villages; he/she was selected by the School Principal and Eco Club Teacher, based on the following criteria:
• Aged 12-14
• Must belong to CITW Eco Club
• Must show leadership
• Must show a keen interest in conservation
• Must be doing well at school
• Must love elephants!
The Makuleke CPA was supportive of our invite: “We are equally ecstatic about this not-to-be-missed-opportunity for our children.”
The two boys (Destiny and Thabo) had participated in the December CITW Camp and the 2011 Eco Clubs. One of the girls (Vuxeni) is a second-year Eco Club member. Amu is totally new to CITW Eco Clubs.
The children arrived after the collaring (STE and SANParks were hesitant to allow them to participate on the actual collaring exercise for safety reasons) and were taken on an afternoon game drive. Alweet Hlungwani was our guide and he was excellent, often relating sightings and information back to relevant environmental issues in the villages.
Michelle invited the children to join her at the boma dinner and this provided a little lesson in life skills for the children, none of them ever having dined in a setting like it before. The children shared a tent with Nancy Baloyi (Pafuri CITW Liaison). The nocturnal shenanigans by lions under the tent hardly stirred the girls’ sleep, but the boys were very excited about it in the morning.
After breakfast, using the computer, Michelle introduced the children to what elephant tracking is all about. They moved on to examine the recently removed old collars and learn about GPS.
We then went out on a drive to try and track the elephants. The children each got turns to try out the equipment, but unfortunately the collared elephants had moved south and out of range.
Michelle shared a huge amount of information about elephants with the children, which Alweet, Nancy and I found very interesting and informative too.
After the morning session, the children wrote reports and then they returned home – all four new Elephant Ambassadors! Michelle was so impressed with the children and their interest and questions that she has invited more children to share this kind of experience when she is in Pafuri for future collarings.
Landi Burns and the Pafuri Camp staff went out of their way to make this a worthwhile experience for all – thank you.
We were delighted to work with Michelle Henley and Save the Elephants and we look forward to continuing the relationship and involving more children in such a positive way.
More details on the Makuleke Transboundary Elephant Movements Project are available on the Wilderness Trust site