Monday, 22 April 2013

Elephant-back Safaris in the Okavango Delta

An illustration from 'Ride the Wings of Morning' by Sophie Neville

In 1994 I flew to Maun in Botswana to set up a documentary for the BBC Natural History Unit on the Elephant-back Safaris, which Randall J Moore had recently started to run in the Okavango Delta.

An illustration from 'Ride the Wings of Morning' by Sophie Neville

Randall introduced me to his lead elephant, a mature male called Abu, who was highly trained and responsive. An Africa elephant, Abu had been born the Kruger National Park. After the adults in his herd were culled, he had captured as a calf and shipped to a safari park in America. Randall found him in a bad way, living in a barn in an area too cold for his well-being.

Sophie Neville with Abu the elephant in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Abu was brought back to Africa with two other trained elephants called Cathy and Benny. After looking for a  home first in Kenya and then Knysna in the Cape, Randall brought them to Botswana in 1990. They were joined by Bibi, a trained African elephant from a zoo in Ceylon, and a number of juveniles who helped to make up a small, captive herd.

The documentary, Dawn to Dusk on Safari, presented by the naturalist and wildlife artist Jonathan Scott, was first shown on BBC 1. We'd often see it repeated on television in South Africa.

Abu has sadly died but Cathy and the herd still thrive. You can read more about them on the website for Abu's Camp.

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