Elephant Havens – Preserving and Protecting the African elephant

There is usually little thought given to what happens to the young elephants or any other species that are abandoned or orphaned through poaching or natural deaths of their mothers. Little is known as to what becomes or happens to them as they wonder in the wilderness and ultimately becoming easy prey or predators.

An elephant sanctuary- Elephant Havens, founded by Boago Poloko, and located just outside Shorobe on the edges of the Okavango Delta exists specifically to address conservation concern. The orphanage rescues these young animals and put into their care facility, hand rearing them until they are in a position to be re-introduced into the wild.

Besides the care facility, the orphanage also works on habitat protection and engagements with community on the importance of co-existence with elephants.

Echo Travel recently visited the orphanage to appreciate its work and during the visit we spoke to its founder Poloko, aged 33 who is a conservationist at hear, who has cared for elephants and the environment his entire life.

Coming from a family of conservationists and having grown up in the Okavango Delta’s panhandle, Poloko is not your ordinary animal care giver, having as an elephant handler at very young age.

According to Poloko, he has always known that there is a need for an elephant orphanage in the area, an idea which was actualized in 2017, when they their foundation registered. After a year, the government processes and permits had been completed.

“Our mission is to preserve and protect the African elephant, through habitat protection, community outreach, research and information sharing, and through the orphanage rescue and rehabilitate orphaned elephants with the view to re-introduce them into the wild,” he said.

His other strongly held view is that of community empowerment in the areas of conservation and tourism. He wants the communities in the area to derive benefits from the natural resources they are endowed with. And as part of the community outreach programme, they have assisted communities with the drilling of boreholes aimed at reducing elephants and human conflicts. Some of the pilots project already in place in this regard were geared towards reducing the damage caused by elephants on farmers’ crops.

According to Poloko, the baby elephants at the orphanage are like ambassadors for those in the wild.

“As people come here and interact with them, they learn and see them from a different perspective and not problems animals. We also work with schools, to engage school kids for educational tours,” he noted.

The orphanage is in the process of acquiring a school bus for students who school at Shorobe Primary school, and living far from school, and traversing elephants’ corridors daily for easy access to school.

Poloko emphasised that the donations made to the orphanage for the care of the young elephants, are also used to empower the communities towards incident free co-existence with elephants.

“Our future plans are to touch base with the entire district of Ngamiland to come up with ideas that will work for farmers in reducing conflicts and the children in the area on the issues of conservation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Poloko has indicated that the solution to the contentious issues of human wildlife conflict lies in public education. He said farmers and communities equipped with the right knowledge abouts wildlife, would be in a position to live peacefully alongside these animals.

“We should get together as conservationists and the tourism industry and make sure we bring our communities on board, and work with them closely. There are a lot of projects that works in alleviating human wildlife conflicts that farmers need to be educated on.” he said.

Poloko said some of the initiatives he has since implemented for the communities around the orphanage is that of drilling boreholes for communities, which has since reduced incidents of conflict as there is less interaction between farmers and elephants at water sources.

There is an invaluable amount of lessons about elephants that can be learnt from orphanage, and members of the public are encouraged to visit this remarkable conservation initiative. The orphanage can be accessed from Maun, turning off the tarred road before reaching Shorobe and drive a further 6 kilomteres on the earth road.

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