I started working at my first lodge in August 1998, in a small Game Reserve called Ilkley Game Ranch. It was the perfect start for my career as the only dangerous game we had on the property was Leopard and Hyena.
Well I thought it was pretty safe until one day to our surprise we had 9 very large long-nosed creatures appear in front of the Lodge!
This was a heard of 9 elephant that had pushed over the fence of our neighboring property, Thornybush Game Reserve and made there way onto Ilkley Game Ranch. Awesome!! Elephant on Ilkley!!
It was pretty cool when they first arrived, especially for the game drives and bush walks but we soon realized why they were called the “Naughty Nine”. The matriarch of the herd was hand-reared as a youngster and introduced into a reserve in the Northern Province where she eventually started her own heard. The matriarch and the rest of her herd were relocated to the Thornybush Game Reserve where they showed us just how naughty they could be.
The elephants’ favorite game was to push over the game reserve fences. Even with the fences being electrified this was no problem to them. They would simply test the fence buy touching each individual wire with their trunks until they found strands that didn’t shock and then pull at these strands until the fence was ripped out the ground. The elephants went where ever they liked.
For the next five months to come I had the extra job of guarding the lodge by chasing the elephants away from the kitchen. The matriarch having been hand raised as a youngster knew that Lodge kitchens have an abundance of fresh fruit, just ready for the taking.
One early morning the elephants caught me off guard and to my shock when I arrived at the Lodge I found that the kitchen had been ransacked by the elephants! All the windows had been smashed from trying to reach the food on the kitchen counters, the front double-door was lying on the floor, the cupboard doors were ripped off and the fridge was also open!
I thought is looked bad enough when the Vervet Monkeys get into the kitchen to feast, but wait till you see what 3 baby elephants can do.
The next five months with the elephants on Ilkley Game Ranch were very exhausting but all very much worth it.