Some of Abu’s older elephants came from zoos in the USA, whilst many of the younger ones were orphans from South Africa’s Kruger National Park and several were born at the camp.
Abu Camp was named for a large bull with matching tusks, born around 1960. Probably from east Africa or the Kruger Park, Abu was taken when small to the United States, where he was used for rides at a wildlife park in Grand Prairie, Texas. He was returned to Africa in 1988, to feature in the movie Circles in a Forest, and moved to Botswana in 1990, where Randall Moore described him as exceptionally calm, intelligent and gentle. He appeared in many later films, including White Hunter Black Heart and The Power of One. He died in 2002, but his name lives on in ‘Baby Abu’, born in 2006.
A herd of elephants drink from a waterhole © Villiers Steyn, Shutterstock
At present, there are about a dozen trained elephants at the camp. Some of Abu’s older elephants came from zoos in the USA, whilst many of the younger ones were orphans from South Africa’s Kruger National Park and several were born at the camp. Under a long-term research programme that commenced in 2002, a number of Abu’s residents have successfully been released into the wild, although some – such as Pula and Seba – are still seen around camp. Notable among the current Abu herd are:
The herd’s largest adult cow was born around 1960, captured in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda, when young, and taken to a zoo outside Toronto. In 1988, she returned to Africa with Abu, coming to Botswana in 1990. Gentle and temperamentally stable, she is the matriarch of the herd, and considered the most comfortable of the elephants to ride.
Born around 1986 and orphaned in Kruger, Shirheni moved to the camp in 1989. She lost her first calf, but her next three – Pula (now released into the wild, but regularly seen), Abu and Warona – have thrived, and she has proved to be a calm and doting mother.
Known to all as ‘Baby Abu’, Abu was born in 2006, an energetic young bull who entertains guests with his efforts to keep up with the herd and mimic their conduct during the rides.
Her name means ‘I’m lost’ and she was found at the end of 1999 after she had been injured by a crocodile and abandoned by her own wild herd. Her wounds were treated at Abu Camp where she was accepted by the other elephants. Having mated with the first Abu elephant to be released into the wild, she gave birth to Lorato in 2008.
Daughter of Kitimetse, Lorato was born in 2009, just before Valentine’s Day: hence her name, which is a derivation of the word ‘love’.
The latest addition to the Abu herd – whose name means ‘star’ – was born to Kitimetse on a starlit night in November 2013.