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My Morning with Mak and Mandebvu

Mak the Elephant

Deep in the heart of Zimbabwe is Imire, a Rhino and Wildlife Conservancy, dedicated to protecting Southern African animals. Their primary focus is endangered species and building a strong relationship with the local communities. I went there underneath the volunteer program and immediately fell in love with the place. Being with the animals knowing that they are under protection from Imire’s rangers makes you feel like you are doing something that matters. Poaching is a massive problem in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa, where in the 1980s the population of Black Rhinos fell to less than 1,000. The elephants on the conservancy are also protected day and night because of the high value their tusks go for so you know that contributing to the cause is incredibly important. I want to share Imire’s message in every way possible so more people are educated about the dangers that these species face everyday. Two of the three elephants, Mak and Mandebvu, are located on the main part of the conservancy underneath the protection of a secure boma. Every morning they wander out and do whatever they please throughout the thousands of acres that Imire owns. I’m going to share one of my experiences with these two intelligent creatures and how I built a special love for them.

On November 18th my volunteer team and I went to clean out the Elephant's boma, which is where they sleep at night. It wasn't the most luxurious task but is rewarding knowing that you are cleaning out their space so that they can be more comfortable. It was a warm morning and we spotted them down by the lake getting themselves a drink of water and some breakfast. When we walked down, we were accompanied by one of the rangers for our own safety since they are still wild animals. The ranger has been working with Mak and Mandebvu for over 25 years, building connections with each of them along the way. It is truly amazing to think about how well he knows them, considering he has been with them almost everyday. Elephants are a very intelligent and sensitive species so they like to be with one of their own or with a ranger all day long. They were both orphaned at a young age and have been at Imire for a long time and will be there for the rest of their lives. By the time we got down to them they were already munching on some branches that they found. One of the rangers brought a burlap sack full of pellets which is something the elephants go CRAZY for, so once they smelled those they came walking right over to us. Mac is the male elephant and the biggest one so he got first in line to get his pellets. He will let you feed him with no problem, he is considered a “gentle giant” because he is so kind to humans.

The Gentle Giants

When it came my time to feed him I was able to look him directly at him with his big yellow eyes staring back at me. You get the sense that he is staring into your soul which is a feeling like no other. It is spiritual when you think about where you are and who you are with and it makes you want to sit there all day. It is a kind of peace that I feel like everyone needs in their life. You fall in love with them and want to do whatever you can to protect them.

Mandebvu showing affection

After the team and I had our fair share of Mak and Mandebvu's time, we just sat back and watched them do their thing. They were splashing around in the water like they were little kids, it was quite the site to see. We knew we couldn’t spend all day with them but we wanted to. This was my favorite morning that I have ever experienced and wish that I could relive it every single day but instead I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to do things like this. I think that through Imire and blog posts like this we can inform the public of how much conservation matters for animals like these because they would have never survived out in the wild as babies. These animals were here long before we were and won’t be here for much longer if we continue down the path we are going, so places like Imire are essential to their existence. Protect these animals at all costs!

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