On the 10th November 2016, at 15 months old she was collected by helicopter from Shaba National reserve where her mother had been shot dead, very accurately in the head by poachers.
We assume it was a poacher as the evidence of the accurate kiƖƖer shot to the head. That kind of shot takes precision and practice. When it is a human-wildlife conflict the injuries tend to be more on the leg, foot, or shoulder shots.
As you can imagine she was incredibly traumatized and when she arrived at the sanctuary it took us a long time to gain her trust.
We spent day and night, talking, singing, offering her seed pods, fresh grass… anything we could think of to win her over so that she would accept a bottle from us but she just didn’t want anything to do with us. And we didn’t blame her. But we needed to convince her that we were there to help her.
Then, one day, after spending an hour or so in her stable sitting in a ring of 4 tires stacked up she finally took a bottle and a strong bond was formed. A silent understanding that we now trust each other.
Now Shaba is absolutely instrumental at the sanctuary as the matriarch of the orphan herd. She keeps order, teaches the young ones how to navigate steep paths, and most incredibly greets every new orphan who arrives at the sanctuary with a heartfelt and emotional hello.
Not only this but she has taught us, the keepers so much too. When we changed our uniform from what she was used to, to a camouflaged jacket Shaba showed signs of stress and anxiety and was charging everyone and everything. Perhaps her mother’s ki.ƖƖer was wearing a similar camouflage jacket? We changed it back and she immediately calmed.
Watching Shaba and her behavior amongst the other elephants and how they respond to her is fascinating and there is something to be learned from her every day. She is the anchor of this unique orphan herd and she is instrumental in the success of the orphans around her.