I like walking in our reserve. I walk to see how the green thorn and marula trees are faring, which fruits have dropped, to smell the rain waiting to fall, and hear distant trumpets of wild herds. I like having my feet on the earth, pacing over dirt paths roamed by lions and leopards. I grew up alongside these animals and under this sky and find that I’m better able to think when I’m close to them. This is also how I connect to the elephants, by sharing the ground they walk on. It was on these many bush walks that I began plotting the start of HERD.

We had been caring for and supporting the original elephants rescued from Zimbabwe, the young ones born to them, and the orphans integrated into the herd. But there was an increasing need for a place to rehabilitate new orphans close to this blended family. Many orphans displaced, wounded and traumatised by human-elephant conflict don’t make it, but for those who do, we wanted our doors to be open to them, our hands free to heal the wrongs of other humans. We wanted the rescued herd to give them a second chance at life with their own species.

The planning began. The dream grew and grew, until August 2019, when we stood back and looked out over the bricks, cement, wood and tools that helped form the skeleton of the HERD orphanage. I had dreams beyond the building, but seeing the nurseries taking shape and the garden starting to thrive, with the bigger herd in the homestead, curiously eyeing us, it started to feel very real.

Many hands helped to build the orphanage – the first dedicated elephant orphanage in South Africa – and many more hands helped to raise the funds for us to carry it all off. Through our 1000 Hearts Campaign, people around the world saw our vision and donated to the establishment of our new home for calves in need.

Since then, we have weathered lightning, disease, loss, a pandemic. We have been lifted up with triumphs, camaraderie, survival, healing, and the greatest show of human compassion.

The year before the orphanage opened, we were tackling a 4 tonne problem that we had never tackled before. Fishan had injured himself so severely that his leg was fractured and he could not walk on it without dire pain. Where many in the field would choose to rather euthanise an elephant with a broken leg, we chose as a team to save his life. To give him another chance. He had come so far, like many members in his herd. This was exactly what we would come to stand for at HERD. Every elephant matters, we tell people. And every elephant needs a herd.

Today, Fishan is happily back with his herd, walking, swimming, foraging, mud bathing and bonding with the elephants who have become his life support, his family. While our hearts broke to lose orphans, Mopane and Fenya, their little lives taught us so much in terms of elephant research and understanding, but more deeply: we saw members of our team mourn for them. Our new carers who had once never seen an elephant before now wept for the loss of a friend they had come to love. The elephants had found their way into the hearts of thousands.

Khanyisa arrived in 2020. The challenges kept coming. And I kept walking… I walked with my son and Lammie as we took Khanyisa on outings to the dam in the early days. I walked to collect marula fruit and branches for Meisiekind. I walked to meet up with Dr Rogers and his veterinary team when we needed their help with a blood transfusion or an emergency drip. I walked to feed Khanyisa milk bottles on her days with the herd. I walked to the dam with my German Shepherd, Nandi. I walked home with the carers at sunset. I walked and talked with Tigere, sometimes with the camera filming us. I walked with the elephants, following Tokwe and Fishan at the back or Khanyisa in the centre as she darted about the giant feet around her. I walked alone to clear my head. And while I walked, I plotted.

I planned how we would tackle the next challenge – a new dam, a new milk formula, new local suppliers, how to get our carers through COVID when jobs were threatened. I walked and walked and walked and never thought to walk away. Because even when I was walking by myself, I was never truly alone. I had you, I had our team, I had friends I’d made through HERD, and I had the elephants.

We say in South Africa, ‘n boer maak ‘n plan. A farmer makes a plan. And it’s this sentiment that saw us through the three years, from 2019 to 2022, but it’s also the friendship and support that enabled our plans to manifest.

This August we marvel at the 1000 Hearts boards set up alongside the orphanage – watching over Khanyisa, Lammie and Nungu and the 15 elephants in the homestead. Without every donor and supporter who carried us from the beginning to where we are today, we would not have survived the pandemic’s effect on the ecosystem of HERD.

This ecosystem has grown to encompass the most remarkable and inspiring herd whose stories have been spread far and wide, as well as restoration and community initiatives helping to heal not only the elephant species, but the land and people connected to them.

I want to thank you for walking with me, with us. For braving the wild uncertainty to create new paths together. Wherever you are in the world, remember to take a step outside once in a while and let your feet carry you to something great and life-changing.

With love and gratitude,
Adine Roode

P.S Hit the trails and celebrate HERD’s third anniversary and Trails for Trunks this August, the month the world casts a light on elephants, with World Elephant Day.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments

  1. This is a beautiful letter, Adine. You and your team have accomplished a lot in a short period of time. The fact that Khanysia has not only survived and is healthy and Happy is a testament to your passion for these gentle giants. I have grown to love all the elephants in the Jabulani herd and I can’t honestly say I have a favorite, well maybe Khanysia but only because she is the baby. I saw her break the branch just like the big elephants. She is growing up fast and it has been my pleasure to watch her reach her milestones. Keep the videos coming. Love to all.

  2. Adine your post is extremely informative, inspiring, encouraging and it gives the reader more insight to you as the human Matriarch. As Tokwe is the ellies Matriarch. You both respect each other and it’s that respect that leads humans and animals alike.
    Thank you VERY much for this post.
    With much gratitude I bid ye goodbye.

  3. This is beautiful to share with us Adine …. they say , “it takes a village”. You have your friends and family, all the carers, financial support, and then some, walking “beside you.”
    • But keep in mind on your walks – if you look back over your shoulder-you have a army of people who love and support you -all over the world!! People you’ve never met. I was watching and 🙏🏻 praying over your hopes / dreams and vision with this herd and orphanage- what a journey it’s been. ❤️

  4. Hi! I just wanted to bring to your attention that the print of full letter from Adine is very light and is probably difficult for some people to read. They may attempt and stop. Is there a way you could re-send and make it darker? Just a suggestion.

    Thank you for everything you do for these beautiful elephants. I watch every video and have been a fan since the rescue of Khanyisa. I love you all.

  5. Beautiful. You leave us with such a beautiful insight into what is turning into your life’s work. The allegory of walking through all parts of growing the elephant orphanage and the Jabulani herd is lovely. You walk us through it all. May your supporters grow exponentially every year and may all of you who work at Jabulani and with the elephants, especially the Carers, know how much we appreciate your presence on this planet. The distance between us globally shrinks because of what you are doing for these majestic mammals! Sending love and my little bit of support, always….

  6. I love this blog so very much! Many blessings to you Aldine and your magnificent team.. You are an inspiration to all of us! 🙏🐘❤️

  7. Beautiful Adine! Thank you for all you do. Watching you, the team at HERD, and the elephants gave me hope and comfort the last few years. Seeing Khanyisa’s courage inspired me to not give up. I love seeing and learning about the entire herd, and dearly love them all.

    I hope you know how much you make a difference in your human herd all over the world! ❤️

  8. Adine words make my Heart cry and sing The love Devotion of Herd and all the Animals There in your Blood pulsing through all your veins who work tirelessly to keep every Heart Beating Safe secure Loved
    I have been following Herd Elephant for 3 years Doc Rogers and his Team Wonderful Loving Carers staying up all night with Khanyisa and Timmase The. Darling Baby Elephant who sadly did not make it
    Adine And Family 👪 Carers Doc Roger and team YOUR ALL IN MY HEART ♥ 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘 🐘
    ILove you all Yvonne
    Lampra Mill. Muion Cornwall England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

  9. Adine, I don’t know if you actually wrote that letter but if so you are truly a great author. Your words paint a story so beautifully. The connections you make between walking and your plans coming to fruition in the shape and heart of the HERD orphanage are visual. Thank you for sharing that letter from your heart to us so far away from you. I will probably never see HERD much less South Africa, Africa or anywhere outside my home area due to a disability keeping me homebound. But through your words and your frequent videos I can often feel I am there. That’s an important element for me to feel I belong somewhere else but it also creates a sense of possession and responsibility for the success of HERD. I want to donate to your success because you make me feel HERD, Kapama Game Reserve, the elephants and every other person, animal and element of HERD is partly mine.
    Thank you for allowing me to feel like I know elephants, the African bushveld and all that is a part of your world.

  10. I have watching your videos for a couple of months now–and like thousands of other people around the world (I am in Baltimore, Md. USA)-have fallen in love with you, your carers and your herd. I so admire what you have done–rescued elephants to simply live their lives as elephants, and even going to extreme lengths to save them (i.e. Fishan and Khanyisa).I have learned so much about elephants from your videos and gotten to know many of your herd–I’d even go so far as to say made friends, even though I can’t pat them in person.I’ve relished the joy of watching Khanyisa grow, along with her antics and mourned with you for the loss of Fenya. There have been so many trunk fondlings that have moved me, and moments with your carers like the Easter sweet potato hunt and Stavros’ loving meeting with Fenya.. Can’t begin to count them all. Like the milk bottles. Though I must also include your lullabies to Khanyisa and Feny.a. It’s been an educational and emotional experience to have met you all and a vivid reminder that life of any kind is so precious. Though I realize it’s hard work, I honor your commitment to that. I also appreciate your photography and your humor–Bubi bellyflopped in the edge of the dam in utter abandon; Timisa, Kumbura, an Pisa cheek to cheek, posing like teenagers in the photo arcade, and all those elephant legs! Thank you for everything you have shared and now I shall be off to find the site to share some money with you.

  11. Thank you to you, Adine, and all caregivers at HERD! I am more aware of the South African animals’ way of life, thanks to your blogs and videos. The videos are a hoot to watch at times, and at others they bring such warmth to my heart. Your passion is contagious! Blessings always to you and HERD.

  12. Adine, beautifully Said. ❤️ Your letter made me Smile and cry happy tears. I prey all your dreams come true for you and All these beautiful Elephants you are saving. Khanyisa and the herd are so blessed to have you in their lives and them in yours. It would be amazing to walk the same path with these beautiful gentle ones.
    Thank you so much for sharing, Sending love, kindness, happiness and good health to all at Herd. 🙏❤️🐘🐘🐘…

  13. Hello Adine et al and Thank You for your vision and incredible dedication to the lives of the elephants. The HERD has become a part of our family keeping up with the updates and having daily discussions on their progress. We are most grateful to you and the entire team for the awareness and love you share! ❤️🐘❤️🐘❤️

  14. Lovely letter. I know you love what you do and how you will continue with purpose.

    Thank you,

    Kirsten

  15. Just thank you. I start my day checking in with the HERD and with you and everyone who makes it possible. It refreshes and reminds me that there is still beauty, love and caring for our planet and its families

  16. I enjoyed reading this blog. I hope many others read this blog so they can understand the challenges, joy and sorrow all of you at HERD face each and everyday.

    Much love to all of you.

  17. Adine you have embarked us in a fantastic journey where we follow the adventures of a very endearing Herd of gentle giants and little Tuskers
    It was a turning point for me because last year I lost my beloved dog Smartie I decided to bring a small stream to your river by fostering the last three little orphans Timisa, Kumbura and Little Miss Sunshine I have renewed this year for Timisa and this month I will do it for Kumbura and after for Khanyisa
    With you we discover the full extent of the qualities inherent in these wonderful giants as well as all the attention and love they receive from you, your Family, the Guardian Angels and the whole Herd Team including Dr. Rogers not forgetting our sheepy friends wonderful foster mother Lammie and friend Nungu
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart

  18. That was a beautiful letter & very inspiring. I’m envious of your WONDERFUL life with the elephants. I must say I look forward everyday to watching your latest videos.
    GOD BLESS you & your family, the HERD family & of course the elephants, Nandi, Lammie & Nungu.💝🙏🏻 In case I’ve forgotten anyone… GOD BLESS them too !

  19. What you all do for these beautiful Elies is Amazing. I’m so grateful for people like you, who show compassion and love for the beautiful Elies. Thank you so very much.

  20. We are with you Adine you put this plan together you put the organization together. your staff, your family, and yes the jabulani crew all 16 of them. then you introduced them to the world thru you tube media, at a time when the world was in total state of upside down..The world saw, the world experienced, the world loved and cried This ground breaking series is history making. A young woman Ms. Adine Roode from South Africa took a walk thru the South African bush .Lammie,Nungi.and Nandi are in this also. Your series also helped other Elephant Santures around the world get their stories out Thank-you Adine!!!! Victor Hayes, Ohio, united states

  21. Adine, your heartfelt story brought me to tears. I live in Chicago, IL USA and Meisiekind and Timi and all the elephants are like family to me. In the next month or so, after I take care of some personal matters, I will forward you my contribution. You are a very courageous woman like all Afrikaaners I know! I love when you speak Afrkaans to Khanyisa and the HERD. South Africa is a beautiful country. I thank God for you and the Carers and your family, Xander and Lente and the vets and everybody in Hoedspruit who helps you. Thank you for taking the time to write this to us God bless you all xoxo Carol

  22. Dear Adine, Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. It brings me joy to walk with you and to hear about the elephants that you rescue and support. It was because of Khanysia that I started donating and it was wonderful to get the progress reports of this beautiful beast. Huge thanks to you and your team in South Africa doing the wonderful work that you do. May you all and the elephants continue to thrive. Hooray fo you!

  23. Adine, your words desribing your dreams are touching people all over the world.
    At times like now, when we are flooded with News about wars, famine, climate change and other depressive events, it is up-lifting to know that there are people like yourself and your team who are dedicating life to make a better world for all creatures.
    Greatly admire you.

  24. Thank you for posting this letter! HERD is a gift to me and many so people around the world. I’ve loved elephants for 55 years, but the arrival of Khanyisa at the new orphanage raised my interest and involvement to a new level. I love this herd and all its Carers, vets and friends. Every single day without fail, I check in to see what’s up with HERD! It’s next door to breathing… Thank you for your devotion, wise planning, sustainability and local community development and support. Namaste 🙏

  25. Adine, through you I can fulfill my dream of the elephants. Since I was a little girl I have loved Elephants. I have over 200 elephants in my collection. I have found them in many places and they are all different. I have always said if I could have one in my backyard I would. Since I found your website I can enjoy my wish to be with the elephants. My heart sings whenever I see your link come up on my email. What you have accomplished is no short a miracle. God Bless you and all your helpers. My heart goes out to all of you. Blessed be you all. Yours truly, Leilani

  26. It warms my heart to read and watch the wonderful videos you make of the “doings” at Herd. I like to see if I remember each elephants name…of course I remember Khanyisa.
    You are a very fortunate lady to be able to do all the amazing things you do for the Herd…what a blessing!
    Thank you for the enjoyment I get when watching your wonderful videos.
    Marienne (Mo)

  27. Thank you for a wonderful update from you and the elephants.
    You must be an amazing Lady and I am so grateful to you and all your staff for the love and hard work given to all all those wonderful animals in your care.
    I am a South African who has lived in the U.K for many years, then in Spain and now in France, however I shall always be a “South African” and hope to visit you and this wonderful animals next year, best wishes, Christine

  28. What a Beautiful letter Adine. Since I began following HERD – prompted by Khanyisa’s rescue back in 2020 – my love, admiration and respect for you all has grown. Seeing how you all pulled together during the Covid lockdown only served to seal my commitment to support you in any way I could. You were all, and still are, Amazing. I consider you all “extended family” and that includes all the Elephants too! Thank You for allowing me to walk with you. Sending Love and Best Wishes for the weeks, months and years ahead. Jan

  29. Thank you Adine for your vision and guidance. Thanks to the carers for their time and devotion. May the Herd continue to prosper and be healthy. God Bless!

  30. Hi Adine,
    this is such a lovely read, thank you. And the photos of you with the elephants are heart – touching, especially with your little follower! We think our dog is cute as it follows along (he’s a kelpie – an Aussie working dog pup), but yours takes the cake. It must be awesome just being with the big ones, with the trust and bonds you have with them.
    You are doing such an amazing thing with these beautiful creatures. Keep on walking with them.
    Dee (:

  31. I love the way this is written. Perhaps you should consider writing a book about your life or about this remarkable herd. I would certainly buy it. You write beautifully and create tangible images.

Help Save Our Vulnerable Gentle Giants

We rely on incredible people like you to keep us going. Every cent counts, and no contribution is too small. HERD relies on public funding to cover the operational costs to care for and support elephant orphans and the rescued herd, so we really appreciate your support.