Rehabilitation &

South Africa’s First Dedicated Elephant Orphanage

Quotation Marks

Every elephant needs a herd

A Message From Adine Roode

“In my time spent working with Jabulani and HESC, elephants and the conservation of their species has become my life, my passion, my purpose.

Rhinos are another great love of mine and their fight requires just as much dedication. With the elephants, I have been fortunate to become a part of their herd in many ways, just as the carers who spend night and day with them are. I have felt the sense of belonging with the embrace of their trunks, the vigour in the babies with each head butt during feedings and the very real power of a fully grown elephant while sharing the ground with them, almost cheek to cheek.

Conservation and ethics are at the core of our approach, a combination of heart and soul and mind. I have learned so much from the past years of our work in elephant conservation, rehabilitating and re-wilding and am driven and excited to create this on an even bigger, definitely more dedicated, scale with the establishment of Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development (HERD).

I am so grateful for each and every person that is walking this path with us and I invite you to be part of the journey with us and to follow our story as it unfolds. This is just the beginning. This is South Africa’s first dedicated elephant orphanage.”

HERD –  An Introduction

The journey of the Jabulani herd has transformed organically and beautifully over the years, since the rehabilitation of young Jabulani and the greater herd of rescued elephants from Zimbabwe. It has evolved, through hard work, dedication and a cohesive vision, into one of South Africa’s greatest conservation success stories; a story that continues to evolve with the successful integration of orphaned elephants into this unique and accepting herd.

“Every elephant needs a herd…”– A phrase that defines what we do and why we have consistently worked, together with HESC, to care for and unite elephants in need.

It is also a genuine truth of elephant life, part of what makes elephants such a unique and profound species. The strength of their family bonds and social dynamics are vital to their well being and survival as individuals and as a species.

It is our mission through the creation of HERD (Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation & Development), to care for and rehabilitate orphaned elephants, to give them a new family, and a second chance of life with another herd.

South Africa’s first dedicated elephant orphanage, is located on the Jabulani grounds, built purposely near to the close-knit Jabulani herd, for us to easily assess and integrate each baby elephant according to their individual emotional needs.

In these documents, you will find outlined the purpose of HERD, why we need it, what our objectives and principles are, as well as a description of what it takes to care for orphaned elephants, by HERD founder and Jabulani Managing Director, Adine Roode.


Adine’s role in the HERD

Adine Roode is a driving force behind HERD, together with a highly skilled and experienced team we will introduce further on.

Wildlife conservation has been an integral part of Adine’s life while growing up in Hoedspruit. Her passion and dedication to the cause have grown with her, as she worked closely with her mother, Lente Roode at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC).

Adine is recognised in the conservation industry for her work in rhino conservation at HESC; however, her most significant work has been in elephant conservation, which began in 1997, when HESC successfully hand-reared their first orphaned elephant.

It has been a two-decade journey walking with elephants, following Lente Roode’s rescue of what has now become known as the Jabulani herd, from Zimbabwe in 2002.

Adine has been instrumental in the care and well being of the rescued herd through the years, and in that time, has seen the unique acceptance of the herd to wild orphaned elephants.

With the growing numbers of orphans and displaced elephant calves in recent years, Adine has taken the next step, to build a dedicated elephant orphanage that can provide a unique adoptive family structure for baby elephants, which is crucial for their well being and survival.

A bold and essential step forward that the herd has paved for her to follow.

Mopane & Joshua with trunk on his head one of the Jabulani HERD.

South Africa’s Need For An Elephant Orphanage

HESC (the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre), has through the years provided a safe and loving home for elephant orphans as well as other animal species that have needed rehabilitation or veterinary attention. Their team of animal curators worked closely with our experienced elephant carers to hand-rear and nursed the baby elephants until such time they were ready to be introduced to the Jabulani Herd.

The decision was made to relocate the orphans to a new custom-built orphanage located next to the stables of the Jabulani herd, as HESC is situated an hour’s drive away. The Orphanage will be a well-controlled environment with the sole purpose of caring for elephant orphans and maintaining minimal foot traffic, which is equally important to an elephant calf’s delicate nature. The positioning of the Orphanage to the Jabulani herd will offer the baby elephants access to the adult elephants, and our highly experienced team will be able to oversee the process of the integration into the herd.

We are confident that the costs involved in creating this Orphanage at Jabulani will be justified over the coming years, as we have seen an increased number of elephant calves brought into our care. We have successfully introduced slightly older orphans immediately after being rescued to the Jabulani elephant herd, but younger orphans must be weaned first, as the Jabulani herd females are not lactating and therefore not able to provide very young elephants with essential milk that they need for their survival. That is where our hands-on care is vital at the elephant orphanage.

The Orphanage consists of three elephant bedrooms, with five communal areas that adjoin them; a kitchenette, a storeroom, a bathroom as well as indoor and outdoor playgrounds for the baby elephants.

The Jabulani elephant management plan has been adjusted considerably to accommodate the new Orphanage, and it will run hand-in-hand with the Department o f Environmental Affairs (DEAT)’s Norms and Standards of elephant management.

Being in the company of adults, sub-adults and juvenile elephants during their development stages is highly beneficial for baby elephants. It has a positive impact on their mental and physical health. Although the younger orphans will enter the Orphanage area on arrival, we will have the opportunity after assessing their health, to discern when they could join the Jabulani herd for days out on the reserve.

At night, the babies will return to the orphanage sleeping area, where we have created a special sleeping area for them and our elephant carers who spend 24 hours in shifts, caring for the orphans.

Our carers are their nurturers, assisting and guiding the orphans to fit into the natural dynamics of the new social structure at the Jabulani herd. We have appointed assistants for the elephant carers who are looking after the orphaned elephants. Our senior carers train and oversee the assistant trainers, guiding them in how and when to be a nurturer, a peace-maker and a rule-enforcer.

These appointments have created jobs for the local community – jobs that are set to be the start of a great new career, as the responsibility of carers extends for a very long time. Some carers might move on with the orphans when they join the herd, but some will stay with the orphans at the nursery.

Taking care of elephant orphans requires not only husbandry training and a healthy, safe and clean environment for elephants and humans alike, but also good emotional health. The carers’ moods affect the orphans. When they feel low, it brings down the animals. If an elephant orphan is in the presence of someone who exudes happiness, they are likely to feel upbeat.

The carers deal with many ups and downs; the struggles and times of illness are draining and needs to be acknowledged. These motions can be overwhelming, but our carers know how not to let sadness or anger overwhelm them in a situation. Our carers are taught and continuously reminded of the importance of this. We monitor our team’s emotional well being regularly and make quick changes to the team dynamics if the need arises, always considering the emotional strain of watching over an elephant orphan.

What it takes to Care for Elephants

When a rescued orphan comes into the orphanage, it is traumatised and in many cases dehydrated, sunburnt and possibly injured. Because of their high intelligence and complexity, they are very different to your usual wild animal. Their needs are diverse and nuanced and require a special kind of management, one with heart and soul and respect as well as milk and medicine.

Elephant Carers

HERD has a sizable team of dedicated elephant carers, who assist in 24-hour-shifts to ensure that the little ones are never left alone or without a carer. The carers are the sole nurturers until the new orphans are strong enough to join the other elephant orphans and then the Jabulani herd.

Consistency of this core team is crucial, as the second loss of a ‘herd’ member can be extremely traumatic and can bring on a sudden change in the orphans’ health. Our carers play a significant role in the nurturing of the orphans with sustenance, healthcare, love, guidance, and hugs too.


A baby elephant’s milk formulation is exceptionally delicate and needs frequent adjustment, with extra nutritional supplements as they grow, as their mother’s milk would change naturally through the weaning stages and evolving needs. The gut of a baby elephant is extremely sensitive.

When an orphan has diarrhea, it has a ripple effect. It starts by impacting their gut lining, which in turn changes their energy levels, impacting on their emotional well being. They can move from hero to zero in a short period. Daily records of their feeding and bathroom habits are essential so to monitor whether they are excreting or urinating more than what they take in. Like human babies, they are very delicate and can quickly dehydrate.


A stable sleep pattern and a good routine for baby elephants is essential for their well being, along with the stimulation using toys, rubbing posts, frequent mud baths and good exercise. Our carers make use of the natural environment to enhance and strengthen their natural instincts such as sand-dusting and gaining the strength of their trunks.


Elephants’ complex social system and the value they get from being part of a family structure plays a major role in their well being. The discipline and peer structure created by the herd not only benefits the orphan introduced to its new herd, but also the well being of the herd by allowing them to ‘show’ and to fulfill their maternal instincts by adopting the new orphans.


Monetary funding is crucial for the daily operations of the orphanage during their critical formative years, as well as the potential long term financial impact of caring for a fully grown elephant if reintegration into the wild is not feasible. These potential reintegration projects would include the need for new land which will add additional costs to the HERD project.


Consistent management planning is essential to the success of an elephant conservation project such as HERD. Our Objectives, our principles; international, national and provincial legislation as well as animal welfare and protection acts, have to be continuously reviewed in order to adapt and include any changes that arise. A solid management plan includes the long term responsibility of elephant care, including research of the species, ethics and the possible reintegration into the wild.


In addition to the people on the ground, you need people who don’t deal with the day-to-day caring of the elephants to form part of your team. These are the people who strengthen your operation, who form part of your back-of-house. These are the individuals managing financials, media and communications and fundraising and who should be part of the management plan.


Ethical business operations are imperative to the success of the HERD. The way we treat our people and the elephants must always enhance their mental and physical well being. We educate and train our staff daily, knowing that their knowledge and learned passion for wildlife and elephant would be passed on through further generations. The HERD has immense value in the contribution of a resilient socio-ecological system where man and animal can share common resources and live harmoniously together, ensuring sustainable development of our wildlife, environment and communities.

The HERD: Who Are We?

Our “Human Herd” plays an important role in each orphaned elephant’s well being. Our highly dedicated, passionate and experienced team gives each baby elephant the best round-the-clock care to. They are well-equipped emotionally and physically to react to any situation that may arise at any time of day or night.

Meet our Elephant Care Team


Tigere Matipedza

Jabulani Elephant Manager

Tigere is well respected as one of two elephant managers at Jabulani. He has been working with elephants since 1996 and has been key in the success of the Jabulani Herds well being. Tigere oversees and manages the important integration process of the orphaned elephants to the Jabulani Herd and works closely with our HERD team to ensure a successful introduction and integration.

Eight experienced Elephant Carers from the Jabulani Herd work under the supervision of Jaco Maritz, our HERD manager and Tigere Matipedza, our JABULANI HERD Manager. They work in shifts to care for the orphaned elephants as well as to oversee and train our three elephant carer trainees.

Israel Shambira


Joshua Dube


Stavros Chakoma

Herman Khoza

Samson Hwato

Godknows Chivero

Liverson Sande

Our three elephant carer trainees that were hand selected from our local communities.

Reply, Lissing and Khensani have constant supervision from their trainers as they continue to learn on a daily basis about the fragile care of baby elephants.


Reply Mahlakwana

Khensani Ngobeni

Adine from the Herd, holding Shamwu the elephants trunk

Meet Our Orphanage Operations Team

The management of the orphanage environment and surroundings is part of the task of caring for the elephant calves. The HERD operations team has been involved in the planning and construction of the orphanage and will continue to oversee the maintenance of the buildings and general operations, to ensure that they are of the highest standards.

Adine Roode


Schalk Human

Operations Manager

Meet Our Trusted Elephant Conservation Advisors

Prof. Rob Slotow

University of KwaZulu Natal

Prof. André Ganswindt

University of Pretoria

Dr. Peter Rogers

ProVet Wildlife Services

Dr. Johan Marais

Saving the Survivors

Prof. Eddie Webb

University of Pretoria

Brett Mitchell

Elephant Reintegration Trust

The Conservation Value of Elephants at Jabulani

The Jabulani HERD

The Jabulani story started in 1997, several years before the lodge was built, at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC), established by Jabulani founder, Lente Roode (mother of Adine Roode) as a cheetah breeding project. Over time, the Centre evolved into a wildlife conservation centre as species other than cheetahs arrived for rehabilitation.

Jabulani, an elephant calf of just four months, was brought into Lente’s care, after he had been found injured, abandoned and stuck in the mud of a silt dam. At HESC, he was successfully rehabilitated and once weaned, introduced to the wild elephants of the reserve. However, they were not interested in him and he kept returning to the comfort and familiarity of HESC, which he clearly preferred.

In 2002, Lente was contacted to urgently step in and rescue a herd of elephants from an elephant-back safari operation in Zimbabwe. The elephants were to be culled during the country’s land reformation process. Lente and her team managed to successfully move the herd of elephants and their dedicated carers to the reserve.

The idea was to introduce Jabulani to the herd as every elephant needs a family. Fortunately, Tokwe, the matriarch of the herd, accepted Jabulani lovingly and gracefully. Jabulani had finally found a family and the Jabulani herd had been created.

This was a significant moment in both our history and our future, as the original herd are all believed to have been orphans too. Their unique family structure would create a favourable environment for orphaned elephants in need of a herd. They have since warmly welcomed other orphaned elephants that we have introduced to them.

With the huge financial burden of having to care for the elephants and provide housing and income for their carers, it was decided to build a luxury lodge to help sustain the herd. Established in 2005, Jabulani has evolved into a soulful safari experience.

As the Jabulani Herd is not a wild herd, they needed a bit more protection. We therefore built them special and spacious stables providing indoor and outdoor shelter. It is into this loving and welcoming family and home that we hope to introduce the HERD orphans once they are older, stronger and ready.

Reintegration & Rehabilitation

Our main objective at HERD is to ensure that each orphaned elephant brought into our care gets to experience a second chance at life with a herd that will accept them without prejudice.

The unusual family structure of the Jabulani Herd that are majority orphans themselves presents a unique solution for orphaned baby elephants in Southern Africa, that vitally need to find a second herd to ensure their emotional well being and survival.

Together with our highly experienced elephant carers, we can provide a safe and regulated reintegration process for the baby elephants and monitor their growth and development within their newly found herd, while documenting and recording invaluable data for research for the species.

In time, with the anticipated increase in the Jabulani herd’s numbers, we suspect they may naturally split into two separate herds, as wild elephants do.

Once that happens, given the right conditions and environment that will enhance their current well being, the next step would be to integrate them onto a separate and secure wildlife reserve.

Elephants are a highly intelligent and emotional species, and the impact of forcing a division of their newfound herd would have a severe effect on their emotional well being. Our approved management plan allows us to adjust and improve under the guidance of our respected elephant advisors, as unknowns become clear.

Our Purpose & Future

As South Africa’s first dedicated elephant orphanage, our purpose is to ensure that we have the optimal environment to care for the growing numbers of orphaned or displaced elephants that are a result of increasing numbers of poaching of elephant mothers as well as man vs. elephant land conflict.

Our primary goal is for every orphaned elephant that is brought into our care at HERD, to be rehabilitated and integrated into a stable and nurturing elephant herd that will provide them with the love and emotional security they need to survive.

Anti-Poaching Unit

We are grateful to be situated in the Greater Kapama Area and to be guarded by a dedicated anti-poaching unit, helping to ensure the safety of the elephants of Jabulani and the HERD.

HESC established its own Anti-Poaching Unit (APU), one that is now renowned in the greater Kruger area, and that works with the police as well as the CIS in the Kruger National Park, and several other anti-poaching units.

The Kapama APU patrols in the high-risk areas of the reserve and conducts daily foot patrols on the reserve looking for traps and poachers. It also conducts occupational safety inspections on a regular basis.

In an effort to combat poaching, the Kapama APU has been using tracking dogs as part of its anti-poaching initiative. The canine unit is comprised of both Bloodhounds and Belgian Malinois dog breeds, who have been trained to track potential poachers.

The Wildlife Conservation Trust

The Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) is a registered PBO (Public Benefit Organisation) that supports projects and organisations that dedicated their work to the conservation of endangered or vulnerable wildlife species through protection, rehabilitation and research, as well as facilitating projects with goals to educate communities about the importance of the environment and the conservation of it.

The WCT provided funding for the orphaned elephants while at Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC), and together with the team at HESC and Jabulani, identified the need to build this facility for the sole purpose of caring for orphaned and displaced elephants in Southern Africa. This decision follows an increase of elephant poaching in Southern Africa, and the equal rise of baby elephants that have needed a secure place of safety, rehabilitation as well as a feasible solution towards reintegration with another elephant herd, which is crucial to their survival.

All funding for the elephant orphanage is channeled through the WCT.

Wildlife Conservation Trust

Tel: +27 12 460 5605


Orphanage: +27 (0)66 316 7700


Lodge: +27 (0)15 793 1265
Reservations: +27 (0)12 460 7348