Troublesome the elephant was the culprit drinking 80-degree water out of hotel’s hot tubs for six months

By David Yi
Updated June 03, 2010 11:45 AM

The staff at Etali Safari Lodge, a hotel situated in South Africa’s Madikwe game reserve, spent months pondering the mysterious Jacuzzi problem.

“We were quite puzzled because there would be water in the tub in the evening and then none in the morning,” Susan Potgieter, owner of the lodge, tells “And we thought it was something to do with our plumbing system or might be something with the pool, like a leak.”

Frustrated at constantly having to check for any breakdowns in her 200-liter hot tubs to find that there was nothing wrong, Potgieter was at a loss. Until, that is, she and her staff turned to the elephant in the room: Troublesome, a young elephant from the North West Province who was frequently seen near the hotel.

“There was a puddle of mud [around the hot tubs] every time we lost water,” Potgieter says, which indicated that a large animal was visiting. “And then we saw markings of tusks in the same place,” she says of the wooden ledges chipped by the 4-ton animal while it took large sips from the pool.

But it wasn’t until a British guest caught Troublesome in the act on camera that the mystery was finally laid to rest. In the photo, Troublesome can be seen casually sipping the hot water with her trunk placed in the pool, her tusks lying on the wooden ledge to rest.

“We were so relieved,” Potgieter says of finally discovering the culprit, who had been drinking the 80-degree water for half a year.

Learning of Troublesome’s habit has even helped herds of elephants who roam nearby: Potgieter has set up separate watering holes just for the animals, which is refilled automatically by a fire hydrant.

But even with these holes set up, there are times when she’ll have the occasional elephant–like Troublesome–come back for a refreshing Jacuzzi beverage.

And for Potgieter, that’s more than fine.

“It’s great for the guests–and we all enjoy them,” she says. “Plus, elephants just like clean water–and a cup of hot tea once in a while.”