Sylvester, Cheetah Ambassador
In April 2010, in the Lowveld area of Zimbabwe, a cheetah gave birth to five cubs. Sadly within two days, in a cruel act of nature, she and four of her cubs were fatally attacked by a male lion, something which is common between apex predators in the wild. The sole survivor was discovered by a game scout named Sylvester, who witnessed the event and the cub was named after him by Norman and Penny English who became his surrogate parents. Norman worked in National Parks and Wildlife Management for many years and now heads the anti-poaching unit in the Bubi Conservancy. Penny is a registered nurse and having both their experience was invaluable in the attempt to keep this young cheetah alive. At two days old, Sylvester still had his umbilical cord attached and unopened eyes.
Over the following six months the hard work and devotion from the English family was rewarded but it did not come easily. Feeding was complicated and Sylvester grew faster than his bones could grow but the struggle to find a suitable formula was assisted by the many cheetah experts who passed on information. In time a dietary plan that suited Sylvester was formulated and he began to respond.
As Sylvester was never destined to become a pet, and being a specially protected animal on the endangered species list, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management have naturally been involved from the outset with Sylvester’s welfare. A plan needed to be formulated for a future permanent home for Sylvester, and in this regard, the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (VFWT) became involved.
Despite numerous release attempts, cheetah, apparently, do not survive in the wild without experiencing the maternal care of a mother for the initial twenty-two months of their lives. The human imprints of upbringing in captivity are not conducive to a wild release with rehabilitated cheetah often coming into contact with human settlements and being seen as “problem “animals.
The Sanctuary that VFWT operates from has large areas of open vleis where a cheetah can exercise naturally and build up the speed for which they are renowned. With no large predators around and the support from his three carers who exercise him extensively and assist in nurturing this orphan, Sylvester has settled into his new life with vigour. Through our educational programme, Sylvester interacts with schoolchildren and guests who visit the Elephant Wallow during other activities. He will become an “ambassador” cheetah, interacting with the public to raise awareness of their peril as a species and the challenges they face being on the endangered species list.
The Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary and Orphanage has been a safe-haven to a myriad of orphaned and injured elephants since its conception in 1992. Whilst hand rearing these orphans we have come to understand that the best way to appreciate these magnificent creatures is to watch them living wildly and freely.
Janet (Born 1986)
Jake, Emily, Janet, Michael and Damiano came from the Zambezi valley cull. They were moved from Dombowire Game Park, Bindura to Braeside on November 24, 1998. A year later, Damiano, Jake and Michael came to The Elephant Camp on July 24, 1999. In 2000 Emily and Janet followed the boys to The Elephant Camp.
Janet is very quick to respond to commands and very intelligent. She is quite skittish and doesn’t like anything small running around her or any quick movements. Janet also doesn’t like having other females in her herd, and only accepts Emily.
Isibulo (Born 2004)
Emily was covered by a wild elephant that followed her for two weeks and then actually broke into the stable and took her out ‘on a date’. This led to the birth of Izibulo (meaning “firstborn”). Izibulo didn’t suckle for the first 11 hours after his birth, as new mom Emily didn’t know to move her leg forward to expose her teat. We were all in such a state – we ran around looking for a breast pump. We eventually found one and managed to extract milk to feed Izibulo. Of course, as soon as we did this Emily stretched her leg forward, exposing her nipple and Izibulo started suckling! Izibulo is a very intelligent elephant. He also loves people and accepts all the keepers with no problem. Even Janet, who hasn’t liked any babies or orphans, accepts him.
Jake (Born 1985)
Jake is an early sleeper and riser, and is known to be up before anyone else! Despite his size, Jake is fairly timid and dislikes water. He won’t bathe – Jake only wets behind his ears and will put some mud on his head. In 2003 Jake was very ill with a liver problem and needed many injections – these were administered in the veins in his lower back legs – ever since then he has not liked people going behind him. We eventually had to change, giving him the medication in pill form – this entailed 300 tablets in the morning and the evening, which we would hide in oranges to give to him. He recovered and gained back his weight – we are delighted to have him healthy again!
Jock (Born 1984)
Jock originated from Mana Pools, Zambezi and was orphaned as a result of the 1988 Zambezi Valley cull. Jock has splayed tusks and dimples in his forehead. He is smart and gentle and known for being laid back, cautious and slow moving. Jock eats A LOT and is nicknamed “Piggy”. Jock hardly sleeps, but rather dozes on his feet, leaning against a tree in a paddock. Jock has a narrow trunk tip and likes to use his trunk as a ‘hoover’ to suck pellets up into his trunk so that he can take more at once because of this. In 1999 Jock fell through a warthog burrow that collapsed under his weight; now he is still very scared of any holes or piles of sand due to the fright he got!
Emily (Born 1986)
Emily is left-handed and her right tusk is especially long. She is a fast-moving elephant. Despite this she is a slow eater and often falls behind because of this – perhaps that’s why she has learnt to walk so fast – she has to catch up! Emily is known for her easy-going nature. Emily and Janet are very close; one can say “joined at the hip”. They are almost never seen apart. Emily was covered by a wild elephant that followed her for two weeks and then actually broke into the stable and took her out ‘on a date’. This led to the birth of Izibulo.
‘Uncle’ Jumbo (Born 1983)
Jumbo has distinctive twisted and uneven tusks and always appears healthy and fat. Jumbo is known as an especially intelligent elephant by his keepers. He loves to scratch his back on foliage.
Jumbo is the tallest of all of the elephants – his large size comes a large appetite. Jumbo is known to steal food from those around him, and if you are eating next to him in the stable you better watch your food! He also loves his sleep and is an early sleeper and late riser – we often find him still sleeping when everyone else is up and about!
At The Elephant Camp, guests can appreciate the serenity and tranquillity of the African bush, yet remain in close range to the variety of attractions and activities that the town has to offer.