The Elephant Whispers’ story has its origins in Zimbabwe, beginning with one of the world’s truly unique people; Rory Hensman. Born and brought up on a family farm in Zimbabwe, Rory was always surrounded by animals, from dogs and polo ponies to a menagerie of orphaned wild animals and birds.
In 1988 Rory took on his first two young orphaned elephants, Jumbo and Miss Ellie, and very soon realized that these animals were incredibly intelligent and responsive to human interaction.
Rory and his wife Lindie were soon confounding their critics with their unique methods of working with the elephants, belying the common belief that African Elephant can only be tamed by means of submission. Patience, trust and respect formed the basis of their methods, earning Rory the esteemed ‘Elephant Whisperer’ title.
In March 2002, politically motivated War Veterans chased them off their farm in Zimbabwe. The Hensmans had to quickly find a place of safety for their elephants, they moved them to South Africa and in partnership with Howard Blight and Philé Van Zyl created a new company; Elephants for Africa Forever – known as EFAF.
Under Rory and Lindie’s guidance, EFAF became home to more rescued and traumatised elephants. They handpicked staff who instinctively understood their methods of working with the elephants, working closely with them during their training period to graduate as Elephant Handlers. Their goal was to foster a team who would work in total harmony with the elephants entrusted in their care.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
On arrival in South Africa, Rory and Lindie met André and Colleen Kotze in Hoedspruit, quickly forming a strong bond and becoming great friends. From their first visit to the their home in 2002, their children, Nicholas and Amy, and their many pets fell in love with the Hensmans.
André and Colleen spent the next few years under Rory and Lindie’s guidance, learning how to care for the elephants, and to anticipate and understand their complex nature. They spent many happy hours together walking with the elephants, sleeping in their stables and absorbing the incredible wealth of knowledge from Rory and Lindie.
A SAFE HAVEN
When faced with the immense challenge of finding a home for five rescued African elephants in 2005, the idea of Elephant Whispers began to take shape. The goal was to find a forever home for the elephants, and open a tourism educational centre.
The extensive search for a safe haven for the elephants began in earnest.
During the search, they met Jack Brotherton, a successful entrepreneur with vast experience in the tourism world, and a committed conservationist. When Jack offered his expertise and partnership, Elephant Whispers became a reality.
After exploring the vast community-owned land of Sandford, in Hazyview, the Elephant Whispers team knew they had found the right property. The elephants were introduced to their new home in December 2007, and the team eagerly anticipated sharing their passion and wealth of elephant knowledge with visitors in 2008.
THE LEGACY LIVES ON
Sadly Rory passed away on the 26 of February 2013 after a hard-fought battle with brain cancer. Even in his last days, Rory spent every possible moment with his elephants in Limpopo, who gently caressed him with their trunks, possibly knowing this was goodbye.
The Elephant Whispers Team, with Lindie’s involvement, continue to honour Rory’s dream and their common goal; to encourage people to make a difference to Africa’s wildlife. After experiencing enjoyable educational encounters with African elephants, visitors often feel inspired to help preserving wildlife for future generations.