Caring for the Abu herd

At Abu Camp, we place the very highest priority on the health and welfare of the herd elephants. During the day they are free to come and go in the bush, only being confined to the boma at night to minimise any risk of conflict with wild elephants and predators. The elephants have forged genuine bonds of mutual love and respect with the elephant handlers, and they are carefully and closely monitored for any signs of stress or symptoms of illness by their human friends.

Expert veterinary care is always available, and the training, food and instructions they receive have all been designed to take full account of the physiology and psychology of elephants as we understand it. In addition, all herd members are free to leave the herd at any time of their choosing. For the time the elephants are with us, everyone working at the Camp considers it an immense privilege to be a part of this unique elephant and human herd. At Abu Camp, elephants are far more than a logo – they are our very reason for being, our passion, and they are family.

The Abu Herd’s Handlers

Our herd is cared for by a special group of men, who treat the elephants like members of their own families – and this sentiment is reciprocated by the herd.

WELLINGTON JANA – ELEPHANT MANAGER

In his home city of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Wellington started working with elephants with Wild Horizons in 1995. He began as an elephant handler and worked his way up to elephant management by 2005.

In 2011, Wild Horizons was recruited by Wilderness Safaris to bring in their expertise of elephant management in order to transition the elephants from the training of the previous owner to the training system employed today. Wellington was critical in adjusting the Abu Herd to a training system based on positive reinforcement and minimizing physical exertion of the elephants for guest activities, bringing the Abu elephant experience more in line with the values of Wilderness Safaris.

Wellington’s many accomplishments include the successful release of previous Abu Herd members Gikka and Naya, as well as ensuring the survival and welfare of the Abu Herd’s newest member, Naledi, after Naledi’s mother’s sudden death. A true elephant man, Wellington most enjoys spending time with the elephants when he is here at camp, especially watching Naledi grow up with hopes she will grow into a healthy and happy adult elephant.

BOAGO ‘BEE’ POLOKO – ELEPHANT TEAM MANAGER

Bee was born and raised in Maun, Botswana. He entered the Tourism industry back in 2008 after he achieved a Certificate in Travel and Tourism, Hotels Management. His hospitality career started with roles as a stock taking assistant and a bartender at Maun Old Bridge Backpackers.

As a son of an anti-poaching official Bee has always had a passion to work with elephants and in the African Safari industry. Since Bee has always wanted to work with elephants from an early age, he joined the Abu team in 2010, starting as a trainee elephant handler. Showing exceptional dedication to his work, he rose to his current position as Elephant Team Manager in 2013. His people skills, humility, customer relations skills and attention to detail in both the handling side of elephants and delivering an unforgettable experience to the Abu clients makes Bee a priceless member of the Abu Herd.

As an aspiring photographer Bee passes his spare time creating a portfolio of game animals, elephants and the Okavango landscape. With his deep passion for elephants, knowledge of the wild Okavango equalling those of guides and his vibrant personality, he makes for an excellent and personable host to Abu’s guests.

FRANK SHAMKUNI

Frank hails from Kasane, Botswana. He was first introduced to Abu Camp by his grandfather who was an elephant handler. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, he eventually joined the team and has now been a handler living amongst and riding the Abu elephant herd since 1996. In his free time he alternates between relaxing and going to his cattle post.

CHRISTOPHER ‘CHRIS’ BAETI

Chris was born and raised in Maun, Botswana and started working at Abu in 2006 as a mokoro poler. Knowing he wanted to work with elephants every day, he transferred to the elephant handler team. He finds spending time with the elephants in the middle of the day while they free roam the most exciting part of his day. When he is not with the elephants, he loves to bike and fish.

AAKANYANG ‘AKA’ MOSABATA

AKA began his career at Abu Camp as a waiter, before realising that he just loved being around the Abu herd and requesting a transfer to the elephant handlers’ team. Just six months after he arrived at Abu, he joined the handlers and has been with them ever since. He enjoys working with, training and rewarding the elephants. Born and raised in Maun, Botswana, AKA is a traditional singer, and also loves reading, playing his guitar and dancing.

ONKEMETSE ‘ONX’ TSELE

Onx comes from Maun, Botswana and has been on the Abu Concession since 2005. He began his career as a tracker before moving into the inspiring field of elephant handling. He loves the fact that one can learn new things about the elephants every day, and is always amazed at how friendly these large creatures can be. While on leave, he likes reading books about animals, trees and birds, and listening to music.

WITNESS KEEME

Born and raised in Francistown, Botswana, Witness has been working at Abu Camp for over seven years and particularly enjoys riding and walking with the Abu herd. He is amazed at the way that trust can be built between elephants and humans; in fact, he maintains that real relationships can be created between the two species, and he is testament to this fact. In his free time, Witness enjoys relaxing with his friends, partner and new baby daughter.

LAZARUS ‘LAZZIE’ KAMASENA

Lazzie, from Maun, Botswana, has been at Abu Camp since 2008. He loves working with the Abu herd as he gets to enjoy the bush with the elephants, whether walking next to them, riding them or swimming with them in one of the crystal-clear channels of the Okavango Delta. When he’s not busy with the elephants, Lazzie likes reading, and watching and listening to the myriad birds that call the Okavango home.

ONKOBETSE ‘ONKS’ MOTLAMMA

Onks has been fascinated by elephants ever since his childhood, which was spent in Gweta, Botswana. He has been at Abu Camp since 2009 and really loves swimming with the elephants and watching them have mud baths. He considers the Abu herd to be a part of his family. He loves his job as he gets to meet interesting people from all over the world and he enjoys sharing his knowledge about these pachyderms with them. Reading books and fishing are his other loves.

THATAYAONE ‘TT’ BAPATI

Before arriving at Abu Camp in 2009, TT worked at several other camps in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, his jobs ranging from waiter to maintenance worker, before he settled on being an elephant handler at Abu. His work inspires him as he loves learning from the elephants themselves and learning about the bush while out with them, to say nothing of appreciating their intelligence. Coming from Maun, Botswana, he uses his free time to read books on birds and animals, as well as to watch soccer and listen to reggae music.

MICHAEL ‘MIKE’ MOHULATSI

After joining the Abu team in 2011 as an elephant stable hand, Mike showed great promise and dedication to the elephant program. He quickly rose to elephant handler under Wellington’s training and has been a natural fit ever since. In his spare time, this Maun, Botswana native most enjoys reading and playing soccer.

TSHOLOFELO ‘TWO’ KAMASENA

Born and raised in Maun, Botswana, Two has been working at Abu Camp since 2012. Previously, he travelled across the length and breadth of southern Africa learning about its amazing wildlife. He loves working with the Abu herd – in fact loves elephants in general – because of their intelligence and how responsive they are to training and education. In his free time, Two loves playing soccer and dancing, or just relaxing with family and friends.

SANE ‘SUNNYBOY’ MPHO

Sunnyboy hails from the Tswapong district of Chadibe, Botswana. Prior to his arrival, he spent time training to be a guide throughout the Okavango Delta before deciding he wanted to work at Abu. Here, he started out as a barman before getting his wish and moving over to the elephant handlers’ team as a stable hand. He particularly appreciates the herd’s respect for one other and the very clear intelligence that they show. In his free time, Sunnyboy enjoys traditional music and dancing as well as reading books about the Okavango.