During the last week in April, Phabeni had been drinking only about 70-80% of his milk bottles for five days, leaving enough milk that we were concerned about his health and loss of weight which we could pick up when we weighed him at the orphanage. Before it became life-threatening Adine organised over the weekend for Dr Rogers to visit in this new week, which was a great call since on Sunday Phabeni left about 70% of his milk behind. Although he is feeding in the bush, it is not a sufficient amount to make up for the energy he needs, as well as the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that he requires. His milk is rich in these, with coconut oil providing the fats. We need to keep Phabeni’s routines the same each day to prevent stress as any little change disrupts not only him but also the whole herd, especially Setombe, Klaserie, and Tokwe.

On the day that we arranged for Dr Rogers to visit, the little bull enjoyed a swim at the dam with his herd and then the elephants walked him home to the orphanage. Setombe and Klaserie walked Phabeni to the orphanage gate while the herd stayed back. As they approached, they heard Dr Rogers’ vehicle and Setombe and Klaserie got spooked and ran back to the herd, trumpeting. The other elephants ran toward them and met at the homestead, where our team tried to calm them down. Eventually, Setombe was able to walk Phabeni to the orphanage to meet with Dr Rogers. The little calf was not keen on being separated from the herd, as is understandable, and let out big cries.

In the nursery, Dr Rogers administered the bull with a drip of saline solution and vitamins and took blood to run tests for any viruses or insufficiencies. We are happy to say that none were found. The vet team checked Phabeni’s blood sugar levels which also proved to be good. Phabeni was very dehydrated though. It is never an easy decision to sedate a calf or administer a drip as they are often already in a fragile state but Phabeni pulled through and over the days that followed, he drank his milk – although not all the formula with every feeding. He also put on weight. We are not out of the woods and we do not know what is causing Phabeni to sometimes not finish a milk bottle. This is vital for his health and survival. We are grateful for this upswing but the team is prepared for whatever may follow. We are immensely grateful for everyone’s concern and messages of support for Phabeni! Thank you to our wildlife vet Dr Rogers and his team, plus our carers on the ground, doing whatever it takes to get the little bull to pull through.

Currently, in this first week of May, we can report that Phabeni is stable. We are still concerned about his health and know that even though he could have a good day today, the next day may not be as good. When orphans are in a fragile state, every day is different and important. He has been drinking about 80% of his milk bottles. He gained back some of the weight he lost, which is great news. We have increased the food supplementation we are giving him, namely butternut and sweet potatoes, which we are taking out to the bush with him. It is so important that we maintain his routine and let him be with the elephant herd out in the bush, as he is so comforted by them. It is so good for his well-being to be in the bush with the herd, and also consuming further vegetation from the wilderness.

We are grateful for the advice and support of Angela Sheldrick, of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, for being a sounding board during these difficult times as we try to figure out solutions. Every orphan is different and requires personalised care, but the wisdom of experts and experienced elephant custodians is vital at times like this.

To you, our supporters, we say thank you for your positive thoughts and wishes for this little fighter! We invite you to help us with the immense cost of veterinary bills and food and milk for Phabeni, by donating to his care – or adopting Phabeni and supporting him as though he were your own –

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  1. I watch every video you upload to your YouTube channel, as soon as it’s available. I know Phabeni has been having issues and I get quite anxious when your videos are late… thinking something bad must have had happened with Phabeni. I wish you all our best (wishes, prayers & continued donations) for the wonderful care you take of him & the other HERD elephants.
    Thank you fir sharing with us!

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