Meet The Herd

Our resident elephants at Knysna Elephant Park (KEP) comprise a matriarchal herd, most of who were taken in as orphans from historic culling practices. They are all guided through their daily activities by their matriarch Sally, who was the first elephant to arrive at KEP in 1994. Each elephant holds a special place in the herd, depending on their age and social standing. The elephants also share a special bond with their elephant minders who have spent years in companionship with them, nurturing and watching over them.


Most research observations and monitoring activities focus on this matriarchal herd. The herd consists of adult and adolescent female elephants. Where our herd differs from a typical herd is that only two individuals share family ties, creating a series of dynamic friendships that influence the KEP herd.

Our matriarchal herd structure is similar to that of wild elephants, offering a stable point of familiarity in the instance of needing to integrate and rehabilitate orphans into the herd.

Knysna Elephant Park Herd


Born in October 1989, Sally came to Knysna Elephant Park in October 1994 from Kruger National Park. Sally is the “Big Mama” of the Park. She is gentle but stern matriarch and is always very concerned about the welfare of the other elephants. She has a tremendous appetite and ensures she always gets her share when treats are on offer. Sally has never had any calves of her own, however she is an excellent mother figure to the rest of the herd.


Her name meaning “a sweet thing” in Zulu, Nandi was born in February 1993. Came to Knysna Elephant Park in 2002 from the Northern Province. Nandi’s name originates from that of the mother of legendary Zulu leader, King Shaka. Her temperament is similar to that of Shaka Zulu’s mother, who was known to be a very strong-willed lady! Nandi is the mother to Thandi, the first-born calf at the Park. She has been an exceptionally good mother.


With her name meaning “love” in Zulu, Thandi was born on 16 October 2003 at Knsyna Elephant Park. As the first calf born at the Park, is one of a kind. In the first months of her life, she kept very close to her mother’s side receiving special care and attention not afforded to the typical orphan. As she has grown up, this has given her tremendous confidence and a rather entitled outlook in the herd. She has a dramatic personality and is in many ways the princess of the herd.


Keisha, meaning “favourite” in Swahili, was born December 2003, and came to KEP in January 2004. She had lost her mother and instinctively looked for an allo-mother during a translocation of her former herd. Unfortunately, she was severely injured, by the elephants who rejected her during this stressful time. With a lot of love and care at KEP, Keisha made a full recovery. She has a caring nature towards younger elephants, almost as if to prevent the trauma she experienced from occurring in the life of another.


Thato, meaning “love or beloved” in Tswana, she was born February 2008. Thato came to Knysna Elephant Park in May 2008, making her the youngest elephant at the Knysna Elephant Park. Thato arrived at the Park along with Mashudu. Her parents were killed on a hunting farm in the North West Province and the authorities chose us to be her new guardians. As a baby, she absolutely loved being bottle fed. She would often take control of the bottle herself without anyone having to hold it for her. Thato has a stubborn and charming personality.

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