March 2017 – The success of Abu Camp’s elephant reintroduction programme in the Okavango Delta, Botswana continues to thrive with the birth of a new calf to its wild herd. The elephant cow, Gikka, was seen with her one-month-old calf at the end of February – her third calf since she and her daughter Naya were introduced into the Okavango Delta from the Abu Herd in July 2011.
Abu Camp has never lost sight of its vision to return previously-captive elephants to the wild, an aspect that forms a key part of the Abu elephant programme. In partnership with renowned NGOs, such as Elephants For Africa and Elephants Without Borders, eight members of the Abu Herd (three cows and five bulls) have now been successfully introduced into the Okavango Delta to date under the full support of Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks.
Gikka, named for her distinctive ‘folded’ ears, was one of four young elephant orphans known as the “brat pack” who were taken to the Okavango Delta after a culling operation in the Kruger National Park. She became a valued member of the Abu Herd until she started showing signs that she was ready to be reintroduced into the wild. On 2 August 2011, the gate to Gikka and her first calf Naya’s reintroduction boma, built 15 km from Abu Camp, was opened and within three hours they had left the temporary boma to roam freely in their new wild home. Just three days later, Gikka and Naya joined up with their long-time friend Nandipa, who had been roaming freely for eight years.
“We were delighted to see Gikka with her newest calf, which is indicative of the ongoing breeding success story of our wild Abu elephant herd and testament to the great conservation work being done at the camp”, commented Abu Concession Manager, Roger Carloni. “Every wild elephant birth is a cause for celebration, and the fact that these former Abu Herd members have mated so consistently shows that the care they received at Abu prepared them well for life in the bush. The Abu wild herd therefore also offers an invaluable research opportunity as part of our ongoing commitment to making Abu Camp a centre of elephant conservation excellence”.
Before being released into the wild, all elephants are fitted with satellite tracking collars and are closely monitored by researchers. A significant amount of data has been collected, providing vital clues and information about the elephants’ behaviour as they integrate into the broader Botswana elephant community. The bulls tend to wander widely, while Nandipa and the matriarchal herd have mostly settled within the Abu Concession – an area covering 180 000 hectares within the Okavango Delta.
Introducing elephants into the wild not only ensures that they are where they truly belong, but allows further study of the movements of individuals, which can elicit fascinating insights into the seasonal travels of the northern Botswana ‘meta-herd’ of elephants – the largest remaining concentration of pachyderms on Earth. A number of wild elephants have also been fitted with satellite collars so that their movements can be compared to those of the introduced herd members.
Members of the Abu wild herd are frequent visitors to Abu Camp as they move around this part of the Delta, appearing to take genuine pleasure and pride in introducing their latest offspring to the Abu Herd. Each Abu elephant – whether part of the Abu Herd or the wild herd – serves as an ambassador for the conservation of the species, spreading their message of hope around the world through the deep and lasting impact they have on everyone who meets them.
For more information on Abu’s wild elephant herd click here.