Born in 1991, Shayisa is a bull elephant from Pongola Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is currently one of 8 adult bulls, with the so-called A&B family herd containing 57 individuals. Space for Elephant Foundation started research at Pongola Game Reserve in 2009 to specifically observe male elephant behaviours.
Most of the early pioneering research of elephants evolved around females – as their matriarchal herd structure and family life seemed more sophisticated than lonesome bulls. With more research, further information about male elephants was unveiled – including forming friendships with other bulls, learnings from older males and what was first thought to be a so-called ‘green penis’ illness – a phase of ‘musth’ that male elephants go through during their reproductive periods.
Shayisa is the dominant bull in his population at just 29 years old, which is very young to be in charge. His succession followed the death of the previous dominant bull which was hunted in 2013. But owing to his level-headed and gentle manner, Shayisa is a pretty good boss.
The name Shayisa means: ‘to come in with a bang’ or ‘to suddenly appear’ in Zulu. This is rather fitting, as researchers often come across him rather unexpectedly despite his radio-collar.
Besides pioneering research of male elephants, the elephant monitoring involves prevention and treatment of attacks and spearing. The area is highly affected by unemployment which attracts poachers and threatens these gentle giants with near future extinction.