In the 17 year history of Shamwari, the reserve has never taken on the responsibility of caring for a 6-month old elephant orphan.
The Shamwari wildlife team called on Dr. Daphne Sheldrick an elephant expert from Kenya, for advice. Daphne has successfully hand-reared over 70 elephant orphans, and is the first person to have successfully raised orphan elephants that came into her care at just a few hours old.
Daphne’s general advice for Themba could apply to all baby creatures. To thrive and survive, they need to be fed, they need to be warm, and they need care and love.
To take care of his feeding, Themba is fed a specially tailored milk formula with daily vitamins and minerals.
To keep him warm & safe, Themba has a specially designed boma (enclosure) with heating facilities.
To care for him and love him is a 24 hour task until Themba is fully weaned….this is usually a period of 2 years!
In monetary terms, the cost of raising Themba successfully and re-introducing him to the wild will be R200 000 per year for the next 2 years.
February 2010. The next couple of weeks was to be an exciting journey for Themba, the baby elephant that was rescued two years back by the Mantis Conservation team at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve and nursed at the Rehabilitation Center at the world leading Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape. Themba was famous across the globe as his rescue story appeared on Animal Planet, and he was even more popular for his infamous relationship with Albert, the sheep.
When the Mantis Conservation team rescued Themba two years ago, it required intensive team work amongst the wildlife personnel and volunteers to comfort Themba through his initial months at Shamwari. A rhino boma at the Rehabilitation Center was modified to meet Themba’s needs and requirements from infra red lights, a man-made pond to cool off in hot summer days, a kitchen for his special food requirements to unusual sleeping facilities for his keeper, as Themba needed 24 hour comfort and companionship. And as Themba needed an animal ‘mate’ a merino sheep was sourced and kindly donated by a neighbouring estate. The sheep was named Albert, and as they say the rest was history, as Themba and Albert bonded and were seen together all over the reserve and remained close friends.
As the ultimate objective was to re-introduce Themba back into the wild, with much ongoing guidance from animal expert, Daphne Shelderick in Kenya, the wildlife team started to slowly prepare and separate the bond between Themba and Albert. Themba and Albert were separated in a manner that they could still communicate though a fence. This separation allowed Themba to associate with other wildlife species such as a sub adult wildebeest calf; a positive rehabilitation sign. Themba was also exposed to fresh elephant droppings to familiarise himself to members of his own kind.
Unfortunately tragedy struck, as Themba’s keeper noticed that he was reacting quite strangely and immediately reported the behaviour to resident veterinarian. On examination, Themba showed a sign of severe colic, initial treatment was ineffective, however, his condition improved later. Unfortunately later that night, despite intensive treatments, Themba went into a coma and sadly died on Friday morning, 5th February 2010. This was a huge shock to all and those close to Themba were devastated. The post mortem revealed a massive torsion of the large intestine. This is not a common condition in elephant species and almost impossible to treat surgically due to elephant anatomy and size.
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THANK YOU TO THE THEMBA Sponsor
Since 2008 the Devonshire Terrace restaurant in London has been assisting with the cost of caring for Themba. All at Mantis and Shamwari give our sincere thanks to the Devonshire Terrace and their customers for their on-going support of Themba. We know they share our sadness at his passing.