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Elephants are full of love!

The importance of Valentines is represented so dramatically by elephants whose society and survival are shaped by their deep love and emotional connections.

As with human babies from the moment they are born, calves are showered with love from their mothers and other members of their herd (family). If tragedy strikes and they lose their mothers, as with all the orphans in our care, these calves are deeply traumatised and suffer huge emotional loss, along with the physical necessity of nutrition and protection.

The role of the Keepers in the lives of these orphans, and the relationships they develop amongst their surrogate herds, are therefore absolutely vital to their recovery and regaining behavioural normality, albeit within a new herd structure.

Daliso (L) and Chikumbi (R) receiving affection and comfort from their Keepers

At the Nursery, Mbila has taken on the role of ‘mini-matriarch’ and is currently being very attentive to Chikumbi, who at 8 months old is the youngest orphan and needy of affection, support and guidance. The gentle caresses, trunk to body touches and low rumblings provide Chikumbi with some of the love that she needs during this critical stage of her development. Mbila is often by her side during walks, browsing and play time.

Mbila showing love to younger orphan, Chikumbi (Image by Lina Rorbye)

But the love does not stop there! As the elephants develop, they are still incredibly gregarious and supportive of one another. Males have often been assumed to be ‘loners’ or more solitary as they mature, but field research is exploring this misconception all the time. At the Release Facility, we witness frequent signs of affection and support between the elephants (males included) and currently a relationship of note is that between Maramba and Mphamvu (both males) where there is a strong demonstration of the importance of this ‘love’. The two are frequently seen displaying bonding and affectionate behaviours that include gentle touch, stroking and locking trunks in excitement, trunk twining and placing their trunks on each other’s heads – these are not acts that develop strength but rather promote and develop a deep bond.

Maramba and Mphamvu linking trunks

Even moving into the wild we have seen Batoka join up with other wild elephants. He is very rarely seen alone, and this reinforces the concept that the survival successes of the individual elephant are intricately linked to the relationships they develop along the way.

We would love to see our elephants receive some of your affection this Valentine's Day. Adopting an elephant from GRI supports the elephant on their journey back to the wild, where they belong.


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