A Message From Willinton
Three Years of Milk Bottles, Elephant Sunsets & Baby Rumbles
During Lockdown around the world, we all saw how important our carers and nurses were. How vital they are as essential workers but also how overlooked they often are. When people around the world were rightfully hanging out of their windows and clapping or hitting pots and pans for the hardworking, life-saving hospital carers in their neighbourhoods during the peak of the COVID pandemic, we couldn’t help but clap for our carers too. Our elephant carers, whose daily work is not seen, not often known or understood, and not always appreciated for what it is.
The job of an elephant carer is indispensable, significant, and multi-faceted. It is a job that should carry great esteem and respect. We’ve seen over the last three years, as our little orphanage in the wild has grown since August 2019, that our carers have been at the centre of everything. There is no orphanage or homestead without them. There is no conservation without them. There are no elephants without them.
Committing to an elephant is a lifelong career but when you’re spending every day of your life with them, each day can feel as long and rich as a lifetime. In only three years, the team have helped Khanyisa to heal from her wounds and trauma and to integrate into a new family. They have walked with her as she progressed from shorter rambling speed-wobbles with Lammie, to full twelve-hour marches with the herd in the wild.
When we think about our three-year anniversary this month, we can’t go far without settling on our carers. The heart of HERD: Tigere, Reply, Khensani, Herman, Willinton, Owen, Joshua, Godknows, Liverson, Stavros, Shepherd, Israel, Tichaona, Clever, Last, Emmanuel, Foster, Blessmore, Josiya, Colben, Simba, George and new carers, Dzuisani and Crisswell. And our leader, Adine.
It isn’t only our team that has grown over these three years. HERD grew into a Trust, a PBO, NGO and NPO, taking on the care and support of 16 elephants in total – a mammoth task, physically, financially, logistically, and emotionally. The elephants grew too… Timisa grew to stand head to head with carer Owen and she has since edged above him proudly. We all know how the little pink elephant in our care has grown – from a 124 kg calf to a strong and confident over 600 kg young elephant causing all kinds of trouble for her playmate and sister, Timisa.
Khanyisa has grown so big that she had to be given her own nursery, with companion sheep, Lammie and Nungu now in a separate sleeping area alongside her. So big that we’re already able to plan for her move to the homestead. As soon as summer returns and the warmer weather and longer days allow for it, Khanyisa will no longer need to be at the orphanage. It’s a bitter sweet experience to see her growing and moving on, but we can only feel pride and triumph at seeing this next milestone near.
The elephants’ supporter family has grown too, but even as the herd attract new followers, we’re immensely connected to and thankful for those who have been with us since the very beginning. You are the ones who know all the stories, who have watched all the videos and who have lived the ups and downs with us.
Our hearts have shaken together for the loss of Fenya and through Khanyisa’s health scares. They also beat for Fishan, who has continued to grow in strength, and whose injured leg has carried him across the wilderness and deep into the dams day after day. Our hearts have been in sync as we’ve seen Kumbura bond deeply with Khanyisa and even grow closer to Lundi. With each elephants’ birthday, we celebrate a new year of them surviving in a world that is becoming harder and harder for not only elephants but all wildlife to live in.
Who thought people around the world would be keenly learning about how elephants sleep and how to tell the difference between bulls and cows by looking at urine and dung on the ground. It’s as though you’ve been right beside us in the wilderness all along, walking in the footsteps of the elephants with us.
We’re excited to celebrate Khanyisa’s third birthday in September with you and to continue bringing the beauty and wonder of the elephant species to you daily. The rescued Jabulani herd are a special family of elephants and each individual has their own personality and story that can serve to inspire you in your own life. Learn about them here:
The elephants have been our teachers, our purpose, our friends, our pride and our joy for longer than HERD orphanage has been around, for as long as 20 years in fact. Considering that elephants live to be between 60 and 70 years, this is a journey of a lifetime, for a lifetime.
With love and gratitude,
Your HERD Family
Take a look at how far we’ve come since the orphanage was a mere patch of open field…
Thank you to everyone who supported the building of the orphanage and nurseries through our 1000 HEARTS Campaign in 2019! It is because of you that we were able to have an orphanage at all!