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An African wildlife series – the elephant

Thank you for indulging me to draw from my holiday experiences in the bush to share some food safety culture lessons.

This week we take a look at the elephant.

The thing that struck me during my bush break was the level of protection the nursery herds give to the young elephants. We saw lots of herds and most of them had at least one very young calf. Small enough to still fit under mum’s tummy. They are so cute at this age. The thing attached to their heads that we know is their trunks which seems to be a foreign object to them. Their coordination is not what it should be, and it is a process of trial and error to get it to do what it is supposed to do. They are playful and enthusiastic. Every now and then, Mum or a doting aunty will gently nudge them into line if they do something they should not. They try and copy the behaviour of the older elephants, sometimes they get it right but often they don’t. It’s all about learning and everyone else in the herd is there to make this process successful.

They behave just like a new employee.

Bright-eyed and enthusiastic, new employees want to do the right thing and make sure they fit in. They are eager to learn and watch others to pick up how things are done here. In other words, often by observation, they take on our food safety culture – most times without us doing anything.

And this is the concern. What if they are observing the wrong thing, what if no one corrects them to follow the right practices? They will amble along as best as they can, perhaps even not understanding the impact of their actions on the safety of the products they handle.

Bottom line is that new employees pose a risk to food safety, and we need to have a robust strategy to mitigate the risk but also to protect them from their own unintentional ignorance.

You seldom see a baby elephant on its own in the open. It is always very close to an older elephant for protection and guidance. It gives us the perfect picture of what we should do with new employees. Induction training should be impactful but a “buddy” to trust to teach me the RIGHT way is even better. Why not try the buddy system to recognize employees that are doing the right things and teaming them up with new employees? This will help to transfer the right culture in a far more effective way than a supervisor. We learn more from our peers than teachers – ask any teenager.

Last point – baby elephants are never “fired” from the herd, even if they make mistakes. But they can get eaten by lions if they are not cared for constantly. And then they can grow up to be great big tuskers.

Looking forward to hearing from your herd.


Not only do female elephants carry their offspring for almost two years of their life, but they teach their offspring. One of the elephant mother and baby facts you might not know is that elephant moms teach calves how to stand up, find food, swim, recognize dangers and so much more. Female elephants are some of the few animals in the wild that protect, nurture, and teach their young ones.

When an elephant calf is born, it depends heavily on its mother to survive. The calf gets its milk that it needs to survive from its mother until they reach the age of two years old.

The elephant mothers protect and teach the elephant calves from potential danger. If an elephant mother hears the baby making distressed sounds, they can rush to their sides. They protect them from potential dangers like lions and hyenas. These animals tend to attack elephant calves because of their size.

Source: https://www.4elephants.org/blog/article/why-do-elephants-make-great-mothers

Photgraph by Linda Jackson