Northern California is one of only five areas in the world with a climate comparable to southern Africa. Tehama County’s climate, rolling hill topography, and grassy woodland vegetation are ideally suited to elephants and their grazing patterns.
We anticipate the elephants will come from the population of African elephants living in zoos operated by members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Tembo Preserve will provide the elephants with complex, natural habitats that allow them to engage in natural behaviors such as foraging and living in appropriate social groups.
The first African elephants to arrive will likely be young males that will be able to form a loose bachelor herd and engage in the complex social interactions seen amongst males in the wild.
Elephants have evolved to walk long distances, spend many hours foraging and feeding, and to live in large, complex social herds. All of these characteristics require space. The preserve is an experiment to determine if providing captive elephants with a spacious complex natural habitat that allows them to live in typical social groups will cause them to modify their behavior and activity budgets to resemble that of their counterparts in the wild. Important features of the Tembo Preserve will include:
Ample room (100 acres/elephant) for the residents of the Tembo Preserve. This amount of space is sufficient for promoting a level of exercise to achieve excellent physical fitness and deter obesity that’s commonly seen in captive elephants
As elephants move through the diverse topography of rolling hills, pasture, forests, they will develop extraordinary muscle tone rarely seen in captive elephants
All of the facilities at Tembo Preserve will be designed to address the changing needs of this highly social species. Facilities will be designed to promote healthy social interactions, encourage positive social behavior, and facilitate introductions of elephants to each other.
Healthy social relationships can be allowed to evolve and develop over time; elephants will have ample space to come together if they choose or retreat to a more private area until they feel safe socializing with other elephants.
The elephants will be encouraged to use the full span of these diverse habitats, thereby promoting exploratory behavior, movement over large areas that approximates migration, and we may see seasonal patterns to their behavior.
Elephants will be encouraged to eat a very natural diet that’s in part provided for them. An on-site browse farm will be developed to provide the bulk of natural foods like tree branches, leaves and bark. Complete nutritional supplements are also provided to insure a proper balanced diet.
Veterinary and husbandry care will be provided through positive reinforcement training in a protected contact setting. Elephants will be trained to approach specially designed training areas within the habitats. These training areas facilitate that administration of husbandry and veterinary care that is essential to maintaining proper health of the elephants.
Poaching by humans is an existential threat to African elephants in the wild. Poachers killed more than 5% of the African elephant population last year…all for the ivory trade. That is 96 elephants a day, or 30,000 per year. As a result, the wild elephant population has plummeted from 1.2 million in 1980 to just 420,000 today. The elephants of the Tembo Preserve will serve as ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild. Our educational programing and support for conservation of wild elephants will bring awareness and conservation action to the plight of the African elephant.
Funds raised by the Tembo Preserve through visitation and programming will support conservation of elephants in the wild.
It is too soon to know when the first elephants will arrive, but we anticipate completing the construction phase of the preserve in 2017. Until the first elephants arrive, Tembo Preserve will focus on preparing the land for elephants and building elephant barn shelters, as well as veterinary and research facilities.
We are designing Tembo Preserve to provide at least 100 acres of range land per elephant, organized to enable male and female animals to live in conditions similar to the wild, but with all the benefits of professional care.
Based on current designs, capacity would be approximately 40 elephants.
Everything! Here are just a few amazing facts about these creatures:
African elephants are the largest animals that live on land and can live up to 70 years in the wild. They form deep interpersonal relationships that can last their entire lives.
In the wild, African elephants live in matriarchal societies focused on the rearing of babies. The gestation period for African elephants is 22 months. Females typically give birth every five to ten years. African elephant babies are dependent on mother’s milk for three years, and remain with the mother until they are teenagers, at which time the males leave the herd and travel with other males or alone. Females remain in the herd their entire lives.
African elephants have incredible emotional lives. For instance, they celebrate—with a ceremony—when family members return after time apart. They also recognize and grieve their dead.
Recent studies demonstrate that African elephants can identify humans according to sex and ethnicity…by voice alone.
African elephants can communicate with each other from many miles away using infrasound (vocalizations below the level of human hearing) and vibrations through the ground.
Tembo Preserve’s primary concern is the welfare of the elephants. Its mission is conservation and research. For the public, we will offer educational programming and an opportunity for viewing elephants in a near wild habitat. Our elephant care experts will also develop age-appropriate curricula which will be available on-site as well as online.
Through education and outreach Tembo Preserve will promote protection and conservation of African elephants in the wild. The unique research opportunity provided with captive African elephants in a semi-wild environment may allow us to add to the body of knowledge on these amazing animals. Tembo Preserve will develop conservation methods that we hope can be applied for the benefit of elephants in the wild. Additionally, funds raised by the Tembo Preserve through visitation and programming will support conservation of elephants in the wild.
“Tembo” means “elephant” in Swahili, a language spoken in Southeast Africa.
Receive our bimonthly newsletter and get the latest information about Tembo Preserve and elephants in the wild.