Abu Camp has never lost sight of its founder’s vision – which is aligned with that of Wilderness Safaris – to return previously captive elephants to the wild. Introducing elephants back into the wild not only ensures they are where they truly belong, but in addition (through the use of custom-designed satellite tracking collars), allows the researchers to gain valuable information about elephant movements in the Delta.
Another of the original ‘brat pack’ of Kruger Park orphans, Gikka was named for her distinctive ‘folded’ ears. Before she gave birth to Naya, she insisted on sharing duties with Shireni in looking after Pula when he was a baby, constantly making mud and sand baths for him to play in. Gikka has a great love of water and her short tusks set very close to her trunk enable her to perform amazing ‘acrobatic’ feats in the lagoons and pools. Both Gikka and her calf Naya were successfully introduced into the wild in July 2011.
Gikka’s daughter, born in March 2003, developed into a sweet-natured and very lovable young elephant, who was inseparable from Pula before he was introduced into the wild. Naya, whose name means ‘to give,’ was a relatively delicate youngster and another Camp favourite. She moved into the wild along with her mother Gikka in 2011. They remain together to this day, and occasionally their wanderings bring them past Abu Camp, which is always something of an event for the herd!
Born in 2006 and known at first to all as ‘Baby Abu,’ Abu was Shireni’s third calf. A firm favourite at the Camp, this playful and energetic young bull entertained guests with his efforts to keep up with the herd and mimic their conduct during the rides. Named after the late and much lamented tusker who also gave the Camp his name, ‘Abu Junior’ – no longer a baby, and very much able to fend for himself – left the Abu herd of his own accord in 2013.
In February 2002, 14-year-old Mafunyane became the first of the Abu Camp elephants to be introduced back into the wild. Born in South Africa’s Kruger National Park in 1987, Mafunyane was also one of the original ‘brat pack’ of Kruger orphans and joined the Abu herd as a baby. The young bull regarded Abu as a father figure and from an early age was given to trying to emulate the then-herd leader. When Abu died in December 2002, Mafunyane kept a vigil over the remains of his mentor, chasing away hyaena and other predators. He still pauses to pay his respects to Abu’s skull, now placed close to the site of Seba Camp, whenever he passes. Mafunyane took some time to adjust to being back in the wild and tended to stay in the vicinity of Abu Camp before his confidence grew and he began exploring further afield.
Nandipa was the first female elephant from the Abu herd to be introduced back into the wild. She was a Kruger orphan and arrived in Botswana in 1990 with Mafunyane and Thando. She had an uneasy relationship with Cathy, matriarch of the herd, preferring to spend as much time as she could with big Benny, the floppy-eared giant. In the wild she happily mixed with ‘the boys’ and joined them in exploring the Okavango. Since then, Nandipa has given birth to three calves including a strapping young bull named Ntongine and another youngster in 2013. She is sometimes seen in the vicinity of the Camp showing off her family herd.
‘The lucky one’ was another of the Kruger orphan bulls that joined the wild herd together with Seba in 2003. Independent of spirit, he was a boisterous teenager and always ready to tussle with males of a similar age. He is very protective of Seba, however, and they are frequently seen together. When young, Thando had distinctive reddish hair on his head and this can still be seen when the sun shines on it.