Kohlewe (“The Forgotten One”) is the Zulu name for an elephant bull, who was translocated to Pongola Game Reserve, South Africa in 1997. He received his name because the research team on site had simply forgotten to add Kohlewe to his family tree. Despite his name, Kohlewe has become a very memorable, much loved and respected individual!

One of many reasons that makes Kohlewe memorable is that he, among other few elephants, has started to explore Pongola’s neighbouring reserves and waters of Pongolapoort Dam (Lake Jozini) in search of new feeding areas. Pongola has gone through some dry patches throughout the past years with little food and water in the Game Reserve and so, intelligent as elephants are, Kohlewe together with others of the so-called Askaries (or boy-scouts) have circumvented the fences and gone through the lake to get to the other side of the reserve. has gone into the lake. Once scouted by the Askaries, the rest of the Pongolapoort elephant population followed suit not long after.

The researching team believes that Kohlewe and his mates have been taught this behaviour from their older, wiser males who in past years re-connected with still existing, ancient elephant pathways. The history of the northern Zululand area and that of Pongolapoort elephant movements certainly point towards this.  Space For Elephants Foundation and their local researchers’ long standing mission is to open corridors and drop fences between their adjoining reserves to re-create and re-connect with these pathways. This way the elephants (and other wildlife) may follow their explorative instincts for new and already existing, ancient ranges!

Another reason that’s making Kohlewe known is his temper. While normally quite mellow in character, he can also be full of testosterone-charged energy when he is in musth (hormonal mating period in males that increase their testosterone levels and possible aggressive behaviour). That’s when Kohlewe only has one thing in mind: females! At such times it is better to stay a good distance away from him as he will not appreciate anyone getting in his way during the search, nor will he appreciate any intrusions of his amorous intentions while he is close to any females.

Lastly, Kohlewe’s absolute admirable intelligence which makes him so famous today – despite his name.  The research team have witnessed him open water taps or dig deep into the ground to unearth (but also break at the same time) thick water pipes to drink fresh water instead of walking longer distances to the dam. Furthermore, he has displayed quite unique empathy toward a female (known as “Klunkers-Africa” who had a man-made obstruction stuck to her foot before the team was able to remove it after 1,5 weeks); he was keeping her company as she was quite desperately trying to keep up with her family who were a far distance ahead of her!

Today, at 30 years of age, Kohlewe surely isn’t “The Forgotten One”!

Photo and text credit: Vicky Boult, Heike Zitzer