Magical memories

One pair of piercing violet blue eyes and a pair of pecan nut brown eyes stare entranced, their young healthy bodies as still as statues and cupie mouths rounded into ‘OHS’ lending a charming and naughty look to their gorgeous faces. Little starfish hands stretch out clasping mine as I lean closer… thinking once again, how blessed I am. Their eyes never leave my face as I lead them back in time to a perfect summers afternoon under the shade of an enormous Msasa tree with its heavy spreading boughs and stately crown of green. An afternoon where I was serenaded by an insect lullaby..drowsy warm dreams and happiness that I will share with them both.  Stories that are set in my memory like snap shots. These two wonderful little girls are learning all about ‘the magic of Africa’ and all her wondrous and magnificent animals through their mum and myself.

little ellie girls


With lush green lawn cushioning my stomach, I stretch out feeling the throb of Africa pulsating beneath my belly. Dino, the tame guinea fowl, her electric blue wattles wobbling pecks happily, disturbing small midges that amplify into an overpowering hum in their quest to keep away from the lethal beak. With her brown helmet and large dark eyes, she is magnificent. Hand reared as a small chick, she has imprinted on me rendering me half Guinea fowl in her eyes, and this causes much amusement to my family who have crowned me, ‘the old bird.’

toffee and Dennis


Dennis, our three month old wild bush pig roots in the deep shadow of the flower bed. Every couple of minutes he peers out between the enormous green leaves of the agapanthis plants, the upper hard edge of his snout crusted with mud and his piggy slanted eyes softening as he focuses on me, his ‘mum.’ ‘ ‘The old bird’ cross ‘sow’, I am not to sure on this. With gentle snorts vibrating his small frame, Dennis trots over, suctioning his flat nose onto my arm and staring at me with love sick eyes. My two boxer cross biches inch in closer, their tongues lolling out as they pant, serene, calm and mellowed in the late afternoon warmth. A sliver of sunshine, delicate as a spiders thread weaves through the thick canopy of green, highlighting all that is important to me in our garden of Eden on our farm in Zimbabwe. Mikaela slides down next to me and I hold out my hand, laughing merrily as ‘Tsungu’ (a lesser bush baby), as light as a feather sits on my palm and clutches my thumb with his sticky hands. Tsungu has been hand reared by Mikaela after he had fallen out of the ‘nest’.  A quaint little animal who is part of the primate family and very much an extended member of ours. Many hours have been spent searching and catching insects to satisfy this feisty little critters appetite. Moths, short lived when seen by Tsungu as they are his favourite snack. Long fingers, as quick as lightening and the entrapped moth would have its head bitten off by sharp little teeth. Tsungu, licking his lips would then suck all the liquid out. Not the best table manners in town.


The resident hammerkop, his large unattractive head cocks to one side eyeing the dogs, guinea fowl, Dennis the pig, Tsungu and ourselves with a cautious look, before lolloping over to the fishpond to see what is on offer for an easy snack. I sit up breathing deeply and turn to watch this enormous bird lean over, his long neck and beady eyes still as the frilly goldfish glint beneath the surface and butterflies float and whir majestically in the warm afternoon air. My heart is full to brimming with happiness and my reverie and story telling comes to an abrupt halt as two little voices penetrate. ‘Tell us about the elephants’ their eyes sparkle with enthusiasm and their chirping makes me smile. ‘Did you have an elephant?’ they know the answer but can’t help asking the question.

‘No….I don’t even like elephants.’ I tease chuckling as I get an explosive reaction.

close enough to count the wrinkles

‘No, I did not have an elephant.’ but I have seen elephants in the valley and on the shores of the Zambezi river and also at Kariba. I have seen them up so close that you can count the wrinkles and hear their rumbles as they amble through our camp site, flicking up dust with their large flat feet and fanning the breeze with their ‘African continent shaped ears.’  However, you have heard those stories.

I smile gently at them both. ‘Come’, I stand, ‘today I will take you to a magical place…a place where there are elephants, rhinos, buffaloes and other animals. Your mum went to school with the daughter of these people. This is a place where animals are offered a new lease on life.’ I turn, clapping my hands with excitement as we go through to the dining room. Switching on my beautiful computer (donated to me by a special person when I started my journey with Jennysjumbojargon) and typing in a link, I press enter and take them on an exciting  journey through cyber space to Imire Game Reserve in Zimbabwe.

rhino and Judy

I slowly flick through the photos, drooling at how happy and settled their elephants look. Large free swinging trunks and gentle eyes as they lope away, swaying and kicking up dust, dust that I love and miss so much as they disappear into the dry bush. Pictures of Judy Travis feeding a rhino. A heartwarming story of Tatenda an orphaned rhino, Pogs an orphaned warthog and Tsotsi, a hyper hyena all living with their human family. The Travis family have made it their lives work to give rescued animals a home here. At the heart of this hub is their ‘black rhino conservation project’ where for 20 years they have been breeding these critically endangered animals and releasing them back into national parks. Sadly, with the ongoing threat of poaching John and Judy have a daily battle to keep their animals alive.

I turn to our precious little girls

‘Do you want to see more?’ Both heads nod vigorously and I type in another link. Well now, come and have a look.  There is Nzhou who was orphaned when poachers killed her mum. She is now about 46 years old and lives with the herd of buffalo on the farm. She is the Matriarch of the herd and although she towers over her family of buffalo, she is happy. Judy has now given up trying to get her back into the ‘elephant fold’ as it were.

One last thing to show you before our cyber journey finishes. I type in another link and press enter. A short video clip of the elephants at Imire.

Well that has been an hour of Zimbabwe, telling you about some of the little creatures that I loved on our farm to Imire Safari Ranch. My heart feels a little empty when I am finished, but then I look at these two little faces, and reaching down I place my hand on Sadza Badza Luke (our little foxie cross) and I know that I am happy..a little short on animals but still happy. I will continue to show them and share with them ‘My Zimbabwean Dreams’ (My poem).





War Against The Elephants

Elephants are fighting a battle of ‘survival’. A battle against humans and their sophisticated weapons is a fight that these elephants cannot win on their own. Humans are waging a war against these enigmatic animals because the elephants own something that humans want. WHY, I ask again. Holding my breath, ‘would you want to own something that is so symbolic of suffering and death?’

image of satoa from the Sunday Telegraph

Again, as I have mentioned before I feel like I am writing pages of inadequate words as I think sadly about the death of one of the last remaining tuskers, Satao. His rhythm of life has been rudely and savagely broken and his tusks butchered from his face. As the world watches, this devils highway is fast becoming a hauntingly lonely road of grey ghosts. Why, my mind screams do we think that we human beings have the right to wreck such havoc on this planet we call earth. Justice comes from the same place as being human: compassion. What will become of this magnificent elephant bull’s tusks? Where are they going to end up? His personal treasures will be smuggled out of Kenya and into a carving factory in China some 9 2014 km away. Here they will be carved and fashioned into trinkets: for humans.

What is it about an elephant’s tusks that make humans want to own a piece of them?  Is it that consumers of ivory want to hold onto a deep feeling of belonging or are they just trying to capture a piece of the magic that surrounds the elephant? I do not know why. We all know what poachers and traffickers make out of these filthy deals, but what makes the demand so unquenchable? What is it that makes this elongated cone like shapes of dentine so highly sought after?

Ivory, when it is dead has an uneasy grandeur about it. Nothing can come close to the beauty of ivory on an elephant. It has a warmth and lustre that pulses with life and personality. Ivory belongs to elephants and has no use to man. For whatever different reasons humans want to own a piece of ivory for we all know that it comes at a great cost to the unfortunate elephants that supply the demand. Hundreds and thousands of these sentient creatures come under fire every year. Their tusks, ruthlessly butchered from their faces to feed the bottomless pit that the ivory demand has become. Elephants and other wildlife are irreplaceable riches and have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Every muscle in my body tightens, and my mind screams at me. THIS IS WRONG and it is UNACCEPTABLE. As human beings, can they not see that what they are doing is morally wrong? These magnificent and sentient creatures are more compassionate than the human predators that are wrecking such destruction and havoc. In 2012, some 35 000 elephants were cruelly slaughtered to feed the demand for ivory.  With China and Thailand’s increasing affluence, as well as an expanding middle class elsewhere in Asia, the demand for ivory and rhino horn is out of control. When the two-legged being gets greedy, the animals will disappear: sad but true.

We all need to turn east and face the dawn. Our beloved African bush and walking treasures are under attack. We, as compassionate and caring people can play a part in the fight against poaching, no matter how small. My heart and passion lies firmly with these magnificent animals no matter in which country they leave their footprints on the sand.  I am also patriotic about my home country Zimbabwe and have been privileged enough to have spent many sun kissed days on Kariba and in the Zambezi valley where in both destinations, we have been fortunate enough to witness these giants on many occasion.  I do all that I can do to raise awareness of the rampant poaching sweeping through the continent. I also raise awareness for Chengeta Wildlife whose mission is to empower local law enforcement in Africa in the fight against the poaching of Elephants.

rory young and rangersrory young cause

One last thought, ‘as the warm rays of sun pay their last respects to what has been a glorious day in this sun burnt land, the heavy silence of loss ushers twilight into darkness. The African bush could be facing a future minus the very essence that adds to its magic.’

ODE TO SATAO…(my poem)


Running For Elephants

What an awesome day we had yesterday. The plum dark sky and grumbling thunder could not dampen our spirits. When the heavens opened on our arrival at Wimbledon Common, I nearly burst a gut on seeing the photograph that Gary had just taken. With my elephant suit hanging in loose folds, my Zimbabwe flag sitting comfortably on my patriotic shoulders and my granddaughter’s ‘hello kitty’ umbrellas shielding me from the stinging needle like rain, I looked a sight.

jen, umbrella and flag at elephant run

As more and more elephants arrived, ambling with loose gaits onto the field, the air was quivering with the magic that only doing something good can bring. After a warm up session of the plus minus 300 strong herd, the first group of runners were shepherded into the starting blocks and a joyous countdown echoed off the pregnant dark clouds and then they were off.

elephants flexing

Five minutes later and it was our turn: another countdown and Gary took off, heels kicking up small splats of mud that attached to my damp elephant skin. A wide grin plastered his face and the race had begun. Between laughter, sliding in the mud and more than a few gasps for air, we galloped our way around the first lap. Overtaking some of the more wrinkled of elephants, we would give each other a cheeky grin before exploding with mirth as the younger and more experienced runners left us in the dust.Footprints We puffed and panted our way around the 2nd lap, relieved when the finishing line crept into view. With heart pounding and speeding along at a fast walk, I crossed the finishing line inches ahead of Gary and I am sticking to that version of the story. Punching the air with enthusiasm as I had beaten him but more so because we had raised £450 for The David Shedrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, I felt a great sense of achievement that we could do our little bit for these animals that I am so passionate about. On the day £27 000 was raised collectively and as this was the first ever ‘Enormous Elephant Run’, I am hoping that the event will grow with each passing year.

ben and Jen

I briefly met Benjamen Kyalo who has worked with the orphaned elephants at Ithumba for the past 10 years, since the inception of the Ithumba Unit. I was truly humbled by his passion and love for these magnetic animals. We did not speak for long as there was a queue forming, all eager to have a word with this dedicated man.Wishing him well and thanking him for his selfless devotion, Gary and I rid ourselves of our damp elephant skins and made our way home with tired muscles and smiling hearts.

The festive atmosphere of the fund raising event did not take away the seriousness of the rampant poaching sweeping through Africa during these dark days. A tragic misty veil surrounds these iconic animals as their numbers continue to be wiped out to fuel the unquenchable demand for ivory from the East. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was founded by Dame Daphne Sheldrick. Her story is one of courage and determination which spans over five decades of elephant husbandry. She is a truly magnificent woman: one of the worlds best of the best and a true conservationist. She abhors destruction and hatred and is able to connect with greater things and greater understandings. I along with many others salute her.

Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is today the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.

Founded in 1977 by Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E, in honour of the memory of her late husband, famous naturalist and founding Warden of Tsavo East National Park, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE, the DSWT claims a rich and deeply rooted family history in wildlife and conservation.

The DSWT has remained true to its principles and ideals, remaining a sustainable and flexible organisation. Guided by experienced and dedicated Trustees and assisted by an Advisory Committee of proactive naturalists with a lifetime of wildlife and environmental experience, the Trust takes effective action and achieves long-lasting results. Please log onto their link : and you will be amazed at how many young elephant orphans have been raised and re-introduced to the wild.

Today is my birthday and I have chosen to sponsor an orphan elephant called Kamok, who is eight months old and already showing signs of being a mini-matriarch. : Kamok.

Kamock 22nd 5.2014

I chose Kamok because her story of being abandoned pretty soon after birth broke my heart.

She is called  Kamok, a name taken from Ol Pejeta Ranch. Given that her umbilical cord remained soft and fresh, and the pads on her feet where clean and hardly used and her ears petal pink we took the precaution of assuming this calf had never received her mothers colostrums and transfused plasma from a full grown healthy elephant into her tiny body to ensure she had some natural antibodies. This happened while she slept on a mattress covered in a blanket and slept, exhausted from her ordeal.

My poem today is called ‘Survivors’.

African Dream

Powerful, dignified and awe inspiring comes to mind when I think about elephants. They are the biggest and most spectacular land animals.  A big tusker can stand up to 4 meters tall and weigh six or seven tonnes.  A big bull’s tusks can weigh up to 100 kilograms, and it is the elephants tusks that humans are greedy to own. These gentle giants are richly endowed with all the better attributes of mankind have forever been stalked and hunted by the uglier and darker side of man.


When we discuss ‘animal intelligence’, do we as humans take on a anthropocentric view? Are we the most important beings? Whilst we are an intricate part of this wild and beautiful world, we are but one thread in this web of life.  We are all creatures of the soil, and we need to learn to honour all that leaves their mark in the sand. Sadly, we seem bent on destroying not only each other, but the environment as well. These magnificent creatures and other animals are also intricately woven into evolution’s slow magic. They are however, not preoccupied with control or destruction. Elephants reveal to us humans all the goodness in creation. They possess an inner beauty: Natures soothing breeze.


Southern African countries are a mass of teeming humanity: a canvas of brightly coloured African textiles and bronzed sunsets. This land of extremes is vibrant, garish and spicy but sadly the spacious tree lined avenues of the cities and towns are a silent witness to the corruption and greed.

ellie coming into hotel

However, get close to a mango grove in Zambia and the magic of Africa will leave you reeling. Where else in the world can you book into a hotel and be a witness to the migration of a small herd of elephants who return every November to gorge on the mangoes. With a low frequency purr that you can feel rather than hear, they enter the lobby, large ears fanning the breeze gently as they rumble on through. Pausing every so often, a large versatile trunk leans over sneaking a quick peek at the register offering guests a breathtaking glimpse of their compassionate and huge hearts. Wrinkle upon wrinkle of intelligence and a large mass of bubbling exuberance best describes these animals as they glide out the lobby lifting their trunks to where the sunshine hangs lazily in the cerulean sky.

elie checking register

Building the lodge in their path was never intended but these magnificent animals continue to seduce guests for the +- four to six weeks of the year with their regal presence. Africa, a land of extremes with it’s golden bush and limitless blue heavens is also a land of constant movement and violent corruption.

We hold the destiny of every living creature in our hands, and yet so few of us hear the silent cries of agony and the  helpless pleas. The greed for ‘white gold’ has become the elephants downfall and their numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate.  As the large drop of sun lingers, idle in its goodbyes, let us not allow the darkness to envelop and destroy the riches that these countries have to offer. Help to keep the African dream alive.

rory young twitt

 Rory Young is a wildlife tracker and activist who has been fighting against poaching all his life. Born in Zambia and brought up in different parts of Africa, Rory took to wildlife tracking as a child and decided to make it his life’s mission.

Rory Young has formed an alliance with Jacob Alekseyev, an American living in Zambia. Alekseyev is a former Major and Federal Agent of the US Air Force, Office of Special Investigations. Together they have worked out a plan of action to stop poaching in the Zambezi River Valley. Chengeta Wildlife is completely volunteer run and this investment will allow the rangers the much needed skills and resources to defend themselves and protect the magnificent elephants and other wildlife. Please also take a look at their facebook page where you can offer them some support.

 rory and co

There is hope, if we stand together. Our partners at described the free training we offer, “We are offering training to Africa’s anti-poaching units (APUs) in the most comprehensive, intelligent and pragmatic doctrine ever devised to bring the practice of poaching under control.”

If anyone would like to take an active role in the solution to poaching, you can now donate directly from Chengeta Wildlife’s Facebook page. So far 100% of donations to Chengeta Wildlife will support the APU training. We have no paid staff and all overhead cost up to this point have been underwritten by our board members.

You can be a part of the solution! Join our team here:

Chengeta was started by Lisa Groenweg of Rock Valley, Iowa.

Chengeta Wildlife is a group of people from around the world who formed a nonprofit organization to support Rory Young and the work he does. He has skills and knowledge that the teams protecting wildlife badly need to protect themselves and wildlife. If enough funding is generated we would like to purchase tactical equipment needed by the teams. Things like night vision goggles, thermal sensing equipment and motion sensing cameras. Chengeta Wildlife is run by volunteers. So far 100% of funds raised have gone directly to the field where it is desperately needed. WE HAVE ZERO OVERHEAD COSTS!

Like Lisa, we too can do our bit to help combat the horrors of poaching. Collectively, we can ensure the continuation of Chengeta Wildlife’s ability to adequately train and equip the necessary new generation of rangers required to assist the continuation of the circle of life in elephants within their natural habitats in Africa.