WHEN Shawu II, the spunky orphaned baby elephant needs to feed on his gigantic milk bottle, he snuggles up to his makeshift mom – a tattered old blanket that hangs from a tree.
The 120kg soccer-playing baby rules the roost at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in Limpopo, which became his temporary home after he was found wandering near the sanctuary late last year. His minders introduced the blanket, which emulates his mother, to help Shawu realise it’s feeding time.
“At every feeding one of the curators would hang the blanket from the tree and Shawu would come and lift his trunk against the fabric and start drinking. We have been using two blankets for Shawu so while one is in the wash the other can be used to help feed him,” said Lente Roode, founder of the centre.
With the elephant – who is believed to have been abandoned by his herd – growing rapidly, his minders have started weaning him of his “mom“.
“Now because Shawu is getting so big and the day that he will eventually leave the centre is getting closer, we have to start getting him used to the bush. We have now removed the blanket from his daily bottle feedings – so that he can get used to eating without it. He is being fed in different spots.
“This is all to prepare him by getting him used to different locations and environments,” said Roode.
After his morning bottle, Shawu takes a morning walk in the bush, a little distance away from the centre. All this is done under the watchful eye of a curator, who is sometimes accompanied by the centre’s resident sheep Lammie, who acts as a “foster” mother to rescued animals.
While he becomes accustomed to the wild, Shawu still indulges in a little bit of soccer with the grooms.
“We are absolutely delighted with how far Shawu has come since arriving at the centre and happy to see he is adapting so well to his new adventures,” said Roode.