Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Elephant handler in the wilderness of the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Elephant handler in the wilderness of the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Position Title: Elephant guardian/handler/ manager
Short Description: Elephant handling, husbandry and interpretation.
Detailed Description:
We have 3 African Elephants; Jabu, a 25 year old bull; Thembi, a 25 year old cow; and Morula, a 34 year old cow. Jabu and Thembi (female) have been with us for 24 years and we have had Morula for about 18 years. They are all fairly easy going. Jabu is big for his age, about 11 feet at the shoulder and extremely well natured. Thembi is very smart and needs consistent, competent handling. Morula is generally very relaxed. We currently have just 1 local handler, who we trained, assisting us. We manage the trio on a supervised free-range basis, which means handlers accompany them as they forage in the bush during the day. We guide, monitor, follow, call and direct them in their natural environment. At night they come back to an enclosure.
We have two organizations.
1) Grey Matters is a business enterprise which is responsible for the daily upkeep of our elephants through high end tourism. We work in conjunction with Abercrombie & Kent/ Sanctuary Retreats Botswana, a worldwide travel company. Guests stay in one of two lodges in the area and spend the morning with us participating in an interactive educational elephant experience. The elephant trio are the main attraction to the lodges.
2) Living With Elephants is a very small NGO. Its main project is an educational one which brings local children to our camp for two days. LWE's overall mission is to encourage harmonious relationships between people and elephants. LWE is also charged with securing the long term future of the elephant trio.
"The "elephant activity" is an interactive educational experience that takes place in the wilderness of the Okavango Delta with our three African elephants. During this activity, international guests from two eco-tourism safari camps, as well as groups of local children, have a chance to approach, study and interact with our elephant trio. The successful candidate would need to become competent at safely liaising between elephants and guests as well as interpreting elephant biology, behavior, and natural history. So good communication skills are essential. An ability to relay the Trios story and Living With Elephant's Vision, in a way that meets the needs of both organizations and the future of the trio, is important. The elephant activity is about 4 hours in duration and is conducted an average of 5 days a week. We do have a high and low season. The successful candidate would share the responsibility of conducting the activity as well as general management of the elephants.
Note: the children’s educational program is currently mothballed but will hopefully be revived in the future.
Our camp is based in the southern part of the world famous Okavango Delta, in a Community Based Natural Resource Management Area called Ng 32. Our camp is 2.5 - 3 hours drive from Maun or 10 minutes by air. The scenery of this area is typical of the Okavango Delta, one of our planets most pristine and beautiful natural wilderness areas, and it is rich in spectacular flora and fauna.
The successful candidate would be working and living very closely with ourselves in a beautiful and isolated area and an ability to self entertain and a fairly easy going disposition are essential in this unusual living and working environment.
Current camp facilities are fairly basic. We have limited electrical power, generated by a small solar system from which we run lights, laptops and charge various batteries. We have a communal shower with wood heated water and everyone pitches in with chores like cooking dinner. Accommodation is in the form of a large (3m x 5m) tent with comfortable bedding and equipment. We have a fairly large library that the successful candidate would be free to tap into! The camp has an internet connection but no telephone service.
The camp and elephant facilities might receive significant upgrading in 2013 but at the moment the above applies.
a) First and foremost in terms of our operational needs, is the handling and husbandry of our elephants. Our aim is to find someone who can assist Doug and Sandi with the elephants and allow them more personal time and will be the primary criteria upon which we would base the success of the relationship.
b) The successful candidate would be trained to handle the elephants in a manner and level consistent with our needs and methods.
c) We hope that eventually the successful candidate would be able to conduct the elephant activity without Doug’s assistance. The first step, however, would require proficiency in the handling of all 3 elephants.
e) We also need some assistance in staff supervision and training and hope that Doug and the successful candidate could work together to train in 3 or 4 local handlers to relieve our current staffing bottleneck.
f) We are ultimately hoping to achieve a situation were responsibility, in a number of areas, can be shared.
The four first requirements are essential:
-- Must be ready to relocate to Botswana’s Okavango Delta, to live in a pristine natural environment.
-- At least two years experience working in a free contact environment with male and female elephants, some experience with African elephants and demanding elephants would be preferred.
-- Must enjoy an outdoor bush lifestyle, be physically fit and heat tolerant.
-- Must have good cross-cultural communication skills for working with local staff and international tourists.
The following abilities would also be helpful:
-- A comprehensive knowledge of elephant behavior and ecology. Any related degrees or coursework in mammal biology and ecology, in animal husbandry, in natural history and in animal training would be helpful for the guest interactions.
-- Maintenance skills
-- Mechanical skills, off-road driving experience
-- Bush survival skills, first aid training; tolerance of insects, spiders and snakes.
-- General interest in botany and zoology

We would provide:
1) tented accommodation in camp
2) food and beverage in camp.
3) road or air transfers to and from Maun on scheduled trips.
5) Botswana based medical insurance would be provided.
6) A monthly salary.
7) There are virtually no living costs (other than personal or luxury items) associated with being in camp.

Your browser may not support display of this image.Contact Information

Name: Doug and Sandi Groves
Title: Directors
Organization: Grey Matters
Address: P.O. Box 66, Maun, Botswana
Phone: ++ 267 75502128
Facebook: Douglas A. Groves/ Sandi Groves
Please see below for further background material!

1. GM Profile and Background
Grey Matters was formed in 1994 as a commercial operation to provide tourists to Botswana with the Elephant Experience, and the opportunity to meet, interact, observe and learn about elephants in their natural habitat.
The owners of GM, Doug and Sandi Groves met and fell in love in 1990 in Natal, South Africa when Doug was training and caring for orphaned elephants and other animals in a wildlife reserve and Sandi was a graduate zoology student. Doug started his carrier in 1972 in the USA where he had gained much experience working with elephants in zoos and safari parks in Oregon, Washington, California and elsewhere. He has worked under some of the masters in the metier. His experience is broad, encompassing young and mature, male and female, African and Asian elephants. He came to South Africa in 1987 on a ship with a number of Africa elephants as the expert elephant trainer to film “Circles In The Forest’’ filmed in Knysna, South Africa . Doug decided to stay in Africa and make a future with elephants.
Doug and Sandi adopted the two insecure orphaned elephant calves, Jabu and Thembi, from the Karkloof Falls Nature Reserve and moved to northwestern South Africa where they launched various commercial endeavours with their elephants including further filming and advertising. The little bull, Jabu (short for the Zulu word for “happiness”) and his female friend, Thembi, had been orphaned during culling operations in the Kruger National Park. In 1994 Doug and Sandi also rescued a 17 year old elephant cow, now named Morula, who was otherwise going to be destroyed. With Doug and Sandi, all three elephants found much kindness, love, security, and leadership, and have developed into remarkably contented and well adjusted family members, now fully grown and very impressive and experienced elephant ambassadors. Over the years Doug and Sandi have developed, blended and honed a unique and soft but disciplined approach with their elephants resulting in well balanced happy elephants.
In 1994 GM were invited to set up an elephant tourism project in Botswana and so they relocated there. When that operation was disbanded after a few years, GM relocated to the East side of the Delta and subsequently reached an agreement with Abercrombie and Kent to provide their unique Elephant Experience to visitors to A & K’s Sanctuary Retreats lodges: Stanley’s and subsequently Baines. This agreement dates back to 2000 and remains in place.
It is noteworthy that in addition to their commercial operations, Doug and Sandi have a not-for-profit foundation called Living with Elephants. LWE is dedicated to relieving conflict and competition between the African Elephant and human populations in Botswana. They do this primarily by harnessing the emotive power of their elephant trio in educational programs which encourage a harmonious relationship between elephants and people sharing range. Doug and Sandi provide local communities and groups of school children with the Elephant Experience free of charge and accommodate and facilitate others engaged in this endeavour. See www.livingwithelephants.org for more details.
2. Current Modus Operandi
GM have their own separate, self-contained camp a few kilometres from Stanley’s Lodge. The camp is simple. There is a small staff of assistant elephant handlers and labourers accommodated in their staff camp. The elephants are confined to an enclosure at night where they receive extra feed and mopane browse.
During the day, the elephants are taken into the bush to feed, mud-bathe, and otherwise enjoy being elephants. They roam freely accompanied by the handlers who guide and control them with voice commands. When necessary, handlers ride on the elephants to cross water, avoid buffalo etc. The elephants are usually brought back to the camp to give the handlers a break for lunch.
A photographic safari partner markets the Elephant Experience worldwide. Visitors usually book the Elephant Experience in advance but can also book in the lodges - depending on availability. After breakfast, groups of up to 10 guests are taken by vehicle into the bush to meet up with Doug, Sandi and the elephants. After initial safety instructions, Doug teaches the guests about elephants in general and the trio in particular. Guests are given the opportunity to meet and interact with the elephants under Doug and Sandi’s careful supervision. They get to touch them and observe details close up. A leisurely walk through the bush alongside the elephants follows with opportunities to see other wild game, and for Doug to share anecdotes and his knowledge of the environment and elephants. A licensed armed guide accompanies the walk in case of emergencies. Photo opportunities are given along the way to the picnic site adjacent to a lagoon. The lodge has prepared the table under the trees and an excellent meal and drinks are served with the foraging elephants present. After lunch and further interactions with the elephants, the guests are collected by vehicle and taken back to the lodge.
The elephants require care, watering, feeding excursions, behaviour reinforcing, and much attention every day of the year. Very occasionally veterinary attention is required. Doug manages all this. Sandi is also a very experienced and competent elephant handler/ trainer with 20 years of experience.
GM have developed a winning formula in the provision of an inspirational tourist experience. International and local visitors (including 250 local school children a year) often reflect that the experience shared with them is life-changing and the best thing they have ever done. Many are so moved that tears are common. The experience of walking through the real wilds of Africa with free elephants is unforgettable especially with the emphasis placed on reverence, celebration, connecting with, learning about, understanding and a general passion for elephants. GM have over 20 years experience providing the above mentioned experience to people.
Grey Matters is proud of its impeccable safety record regarding both the humans and the elephants involved in its program and are pleased to be able offer their elephants an excellent quality of life with large amounts of relative freedom. GM value their inter-species relationship, which is based on mutual trust and respect.

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