Elephant Hair
Elephant hair bracelets are created by using hair from the tail of an elephant. This hair is collected along the paths that elephants walk and at watering holes. Elephants walk along the same paths for many years -some paths are as old as 200 years although modern man has had a severe impact on the ecology.
The hair is then purchased from the South African equivalent of Fish And Wildlife. Over the years Francis has designed and developed numerous styles to suit the requirements of the market. Some of the bracelets require detailed work with the hair. The hair is often steamed or boiled so that it softens and then once it cools it holds its shape. The average length of a hair is 22" (56cm). It comes in a wide variety of thicknesses and for various bracelets the correct thickness has to be chosen.

The "Cary" family is an established old Zululand family dating back to the 1800's. When Lionel got married the last names were combined Lionel Cary-Smith. Lionel Cary was one of the first game rangers at the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve. Numerous stories are told about his exploits including being bitten by a black mamba and surviving after being treated in the bush by his tracker. His son Francis (Frank) was involved in the rehabilitation and remodelling of numerous Game Farms in the area as well as the "Save the White Rhino project" Frank's son Francis (Neale Francis Cary-Smith) was born in 1956 and after being involved in the Zululand area in various wildlife projects now runs justelephant.com for the past 15 years.
justelephant.com, as an organization, is very involved in the community in and around St Lucia. Francis and various members of the staff are members of the St Lucia Honorary Wildlife Officers Association. The St Lucia Honorary Wildlife Officers Association is a non-profit volunteer organization which assists Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife with its monitoring and enforcing of conservation related issues. justelephant.com is also involved in many of the schools and pre-schools assisting with providing a daily meal for the pupils as well as books etc


Francis Cary is third generation elephant hair jewellery craftsman.  Francis lives in the heart of Zululand in the area known as The Elephant Coast  (http://www.visitelephantcoast.co.za/index.php?home)

His father lived in the area before him and passed the trade onto him. In more recent times Francis has introduced metals to his creations. All of the clasps and fittings are moulded and made on site. The entire elephant hair bracelet is hand crafted by him.

Francis’s grandfather grew up and lived only a few kilometres from his current home. He was one of the first game wardens at the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game reserve which was established in 1895  https://hluhluwegamereserve.com/hluhluwe-game-reserve-history/

Prior to being a game warden he owned a transport company transporting goods back and forth from Zululand to Johannesburg by ox wagon (a journey that took 3 months). It was during this time that he came into contact with the “elephant hair bracelet”. He started to make them and traded with the local tribesman. He was a very well-known character in the area and many stories are still told about him today.

Today Francis relishes in the rich history of his ancestors and takes great pride in his workmanship. It is with great sadness that his trade will end in a few years once his stock of elephant hair is depleted.