Frequently Asked Questions

We are very active on social media, sharing our daily updates with the world -and are fortunate to have new followers every day that have many questions about the elephants in our care. Our FAQ page is to assist with answer questions that are often asked or require longer explanations.

Questions about Khanyisa and baby elephants at the Orphanage

Does Khanyisa skin need extra protection being an albino?

Khanyisa and the herd constantly cover themselves with mud and sand which serves as a natural sunscreen for the elephants. This has proven to be successful for Khanyisa’s fairer skin too. Further to that, the larger elephants also provide Khanyisa with sunshade during the day too.

Why don’t you design protective eyewear for her eyes as they are sensitive to the sun, being an albino?

There are many challenges to consider with the practicality of eyewear for an elephant. We have had serious discussions with various parties, but there are too many factors that does not make it feasible. Factors include, the dexterity of her trunk and her ability to remove any eyewear, the amount of sand, dust and mud that they continuously disperse on their heads and bodies, lengthy eyelashes, and a fast growing head/body. We made the decision to let her continue naturally. There is an older albino elephant on the reserve that is still doing extremely well with her eyesight.

How long do you supply the calves with milk?

The orphans will continue to be provided with milk until approximately 4 years of age. Calves in the wild are totally dependent on their mother’s milk for sometimes two, sometimes two years, depending on the calf. Although from 2 – 4 years they eat a lot more solid food, they will generally continue to suckle until the age of 3 – 4 years or perhaps even longer. It is our duty to ensure that we are able to provide the calves with the milk formula they need to survive.

How much milk does Khanyisa drink every day?

Khanyisa’s milk intake is approximately 20 litres per day. The frequency of the bottles will change as she gets older. Currently she gets 2 litres every three hours.

When will Khanyisa join the herd?

Currently, Khanyisa spends 12 hours of the day with the herd out in the wild. Upon their return from the wild, Khanyisa is brought back to the orphanage that neighbours the Jabulani herd stables. It is during this time that the carers are able to continue to provide milk bottle feedings to the calf. Access to the calf if she was in the company of the elephants in the stables, would put the carer in potentially dangerous situations between the elephants during the night.

It is essential that Khanyisa gets good rest, especially with her condition as an albino, where we do not always know her full needs compared to normal calves. Having her in the nursery allows her to rest well, rather than being disturbed for milk if with the herd, who would then no doubt disturb her further through the night.

Being in human company during these crucial formative years of their development also allows for constant review of their dung consistency and frequency of urination. This assists with urgent treatment for any irregularities or changes in their condition. Calves are prone to rapid changes in their conditions, and time is always of the essence. Therefore, 24-hour human care is vital at this stage.

Questions about the Jabulani Herd in general

Can I volunteer to work with elephants?

We don’t offer volunteer programmes at HERD Orphanage or the HERD Homestead, due to the complex and highly emotional natures of elephants. The elephants (especially calves) bond very closely and deeply with carers and can be emotionally affected when a person leaves. We decided it to be in the best of interest of the elephants, to ensure that only their dedicated carers provide them with their care where necessary, having had many years of experience and long-lasting relationships.

Do the cows produce milk for the orphans?

The elephants are on contraception – therefore they cows are unable to produce milk. The motion of the calves suckling from their teats is purely for emotional and tactile comfort to the calves.

Will you return the elephants to the wild, and if so when?

The Long-term objective will be to release the elephants back into the wild, once the herd numbers have grown, as they will naturally divide into two herds. However, sourcing and securing the correct wilderness reserve with no tourism trade is key to a successful integration, as they are too familiar with and comfortable with humans. This poses potential threat from poachers as well as possible misinterpreted situations where tourists are concerned, due to their familiarity with humans. Another threat we have in the political landscape are land claims – and we have to ensure the land is safe from claims. Our ultimate goal, where possible is to rehabilitate and rewild rescued elephants brought into our care  – but it is essential that the alternative solution is not only preferable to their current circumstances, but that their safety is also taken into consideration. We work alongside many well-respected elephant advisors who are experts in reintegration processes and working with us towards our long-term goals.

Why are the carers with the elephants during the day in the wild?

The carers join the elephants in the wild primarily to ensure that the elephants continue to forage on specific areas of land each day. These areas are strictly rotated to ensure that optimal environmental management.