The Story of Jabulani - a little elephant that became a legend


It all started with one baby elephant, who was rejected by his herd when he was just three months old. Lente Roode, owner of Camp Jabualni and founder of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, discovered the calf and took him in for help at the centre.

She named him Jabulani, “Rejoice”, and that indeed describes Jabulani: always in the lead, with bouncing gait and mischievous eye. Over the years he adapted to the ways of his human friends. All attempts to reintroduce him to the wild failed. He thought of himself as one of us, though in reality he needed his own kind.

All too soon the calf grew into a five year old bull, and a unique opportunity arose to give him a family of his own kind. A rather special herd from Zimbabwe had to be relocated to South Africa to ensure its survival. These elephants had been trained, with patience and kindness, to safely carry people.

The rescue mission was launched by Lente Roode in March 2002 when Zimbabwe was preparing for an election. She learnt that the future of these elephants, and their handlers, was in jeopardy when war veterans began invading farms, including the game farm on which this trained herd was located.

The rescue succeeded, and the herd and its handlers arrived at Kapama. Anxiety ruled the day.  Jabulani was introduced to the herd. To great relief the Matriarch “Tokwe” immediately adopted Jabulani as her own. He has become part of this close family. He’s their mascot, and their affection for him is obvious, though they don’t let him get too cheeky!

Today the herd consists out of 13 full-grown elephants accommodated at Camp Jabulani on the Kapama Game Reserve.

Camp Jabulani is the first to offers a luxury elephant experience in South Africa. Meet the herd on which this is based.


Each elephant’s name reflects its personality:

  1. Sebakwe – the largest of the herd, is a “gentle giant”. Quiet and passive, he’s a real gentleman.

  2. Munyati – he’s quite a complex character, but kind and gentle with people.

  3. Mafuri – the most handsome of all the bulls, he’s kind with people, but a bit of a loner.

  4. Joe – a large bull, he’s very gentle, caring and consistent.

  5. Jimmy – this bull must have come from a very unhappy background. We put in a special effort to make him feel safe and secure, and he has rewarded us with patience and acceptance.

  6. Setombe – while she’s the largest of all the females, she’s not high in the matriarchal hierarchy. She’s kind and gets on with all the females, but prefers the bulls for company.

  7. Semopane – she’s cheerful, intelligent and charismatic.

  8. Tokwe – this 11-year-old matriarch is the true leader of the herd, A friendly character, she always seems to be smiling, yet commands respect from animals and people.

  9. Lundi – the second in the hierarchy behind Tokwe, she is the “great aunt”, the disciplinarian, and highly intelligent.

  10. Fishan – the “joker”. He’s very smart, with a great sense of humor and always in trouble.

  11. Bubu – this female’s mother was poached. After a very solitary upbringing, her happiest day was when she joined our family.

  12. Dande – the youngest of the herd, she’s a bit spoilt, highly intelligent, but adored by all.

  13. Jabulani – “Rejoice”. He does, and we with him!










JABULANI - Orphaned at just 3 months.

This is a story that touched the hearts of people all  over the world. Jabulani has entertained numerous guests with his antics; he has stood quietly and listened intently to what royal guests whispered in his ear; he has become a sought after celebrity for the media, both locally and internationally.

This little orphaned elephant not only enriched the lives of everyone who met him, but - against all odds – embraced a new and strange life by accepting his new human family wholeheartedly.