A Message From Willinton

“I’m Willinton, one the elephant carers at HERD. This month is our third anniversary, meaning that HERD orphanage opened three years ago. Before it all started, we used to look after orphans and had to drive up and down, for 10 kms, to HESC where the orphans were situated. The orphans had no interaction with other elephants until we brought them at a later age to introduce them to the Jabulani herd of elephants. Having the orphanage next to the stables now, I can see how much benefit there is for the young orphans. They are immediately part of a new family which helps them to heal and learn from the bigger elephants. I could see how much Khanyisa improved by eating and drinking her milk bottles. She is picking up her own bottles now. The people who believed in us and helped us to build the orphanage have a name board outside and it reminds us daily of our friends who helped the orphans and future orphans to come. I would like to learn more to increase both my knowledge and organisational skills, and also to implement more community projects in the new few years at HERD, Thank you from all of us carers for your support and friendship.”

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, Adopt, Blessmore, Josiya, Colben, Simba, George and new carers, Dzuisani and Crisswell. And our leader, Adine.

Get to know our team here >

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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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


  1. Fabulous information on this blog! Such a beautiful herd of elephants. Impossible to have a favourite as each are so very special. I must say however that Fishan has a tendency to shine a spotlight into my heart. How I wish one day I could meet him in person and tell him how remarkable I find him to be. Baby Khanyisa, she is truly a little miracle, it is lovely to see her spunky independent little self. One hopes she doesn’t remember the early days, while yet they must be woven into her personality as a strength. Thinking about the struggles that Fenya endured help keeps things well in perspective when dealing with the atrocities of victims in the clutches of poachers. Little sweet Fenya now running free over the bridge – she has forever impressed my heart. The measures Team HERD embrace certainly complement the conservation and protection of all wildlife. I pray that HERD’s message will echo loudly in the four corners of our world. Thank you for all your love and dedication to this mission. Shalom! ✨💖🐘💖✨

  2. I am sitting here crying you are the most amazing people ever ❤️What you do for these amazing beautiful majestic elephants ❤️I follow you and have kept up with little khanyisa ❤️Story I can only dream of doing what you do and I do a lot ❤️Love too you all amazing beautiful human beings ❤️

  3. I donated to the orphanage when Khanyisa was first born ( I think) and have kept up ever since. Live reading about the progress that has been made. I would love to visit but this is second best. I will try to donate to help your progress with the elephants. They are so beautiful and smart.

  4. Every day I tune in to see the goings on at the orphanage. Every day I am inspired, invigorated, and overjoyed at the love, dedication, and grace given to and received from the elephants. Thank you.

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.