Khanyisa's Big Year | The Albino Elephant Calf's One Year Anniversary at HERD
Today we are celebrating the anniversary of Khanyisa arriving at HERD - how time has flown!
One year ago, Khanyisa arrived in our care at HERD, on that momentous day: 8 January 2020. We have shared her journey through rehabilitation and integration into a new herd with you every step of the way, showing the ups and downs, the milestones and triumphs as well as the setbacks and scares.
The year that Khanyisa has spent in our care has not only healed the precious baby albino elephant physically but emotionally too. Her confidence and joy and trust developed - under the loving guidance and protection of our incredible, selfless carers, Adine and Elephant Manager, Tigere, Lammie the Legendary sheep companion, and the elephants who have become family to the calf.
The year gave Khanyisa so much, in her second chance at life, but we could never have expected what it would give us.
Our hearts deepened and grew alongside her growing little body, our own fears and stress were placated by the courage she showed, bounding up to her herd for their daily walks, in spite of her past trauma, a trauma that is hard to shake.
Our own herd expanded as hers did…
as we found like-minded hearts and souls around the world, willing to help us care for and support Khanyisa and the herd. People eager to learn more about elephants as Khanyisa opened up a new world of curiosity. We have connected with the most incredible humans north and south of the Equator and while much of our team is busy on the ground with the herd and the vital responsibilities, some of our team are engaged daily, hourly, with the community that have rallied around us.
Reading your comments, emails and messages has felt like talking with family and friends. Sharing these words with Adine, Tigere and the carers gives the team so much extra pep and connection to something much greater than our little sphere.
This is the important thing about conservation… as many of our followers have even stated. You teach a person about an animal and they learn to understand it. When they understand it, they learn to love it. And when they love, they want to protect.
Our journey with Khanyisa has gone this extra, almost unexpected step… while doing our work to save her and carry her on her healing path to a herd of her own, we’ve been able to reach out to new people who may or may not have ever seen an elephant before, and helped them see the beauty and magnificence of elephants, the need for their conservation, and why we should respect and protect them.
For Khanyisa, her year with us has been one surrounded by love, from her very first night to today, as she walks happily with her mother, allomothers, sisters, brothers and father figures in this unique herd of elephants.
Let’s look back at the year that was…
Khanyisa was rescued on 7 January 2020, having survived several days on her own in the wild, severely injured from a snare that had wrapped itself around her head, severing the top lobe of her left ear and causing severe lacerations around her head, neck, mouth and cheeks. The four-month-old calf somehow freed the snare from the ground, but it remained wrapped around her, continually rubbing and cutting into her flesh.
It’s unclear if her herd had abandoned the albino calf before she was ensnared or after the incident. The fact that she survived so long in the wild is a miracle; she was dehydrated, and her eyes had swollen shut from pressure building from the snare and the swelling around her head. The trauma she experienced, although not visually evident, will no doubt cut much deeper than the physical pain she endured.
Khanyisa was discovered in a nature reserve neighbouring the south-west of the Kruger National Park by two employees of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA). She was taken to the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary in Mpumalanga to be stabilised, while the inter-provincial permit was arranged to translocate her to the province of Limpopo, where HERD is situated. The same day, our elephant care team departed from HERD to join the Care for Wild team to provide essential milk and care for the calf overnight.
On 8 January, the little calf arrived at HERD, to start her long road of rehabilitation ahead of meeting her new family-in-waiting, the Jabulani Herd.
The most significant part of her rehabilitation process was the successful treatment of her wounds, thanks to the incredible work of Wildlife Vet, Dr. Peter Rogers.
Khanyisa has progressed from a dehydrated 124-kilogram animal to an healthy approximately 280-kilogram elephant today. There have been battles with diarrhoea, weight loss and low iron - our greatest concerns following the successful healing of her scars.
Diarrhoea can be brought upon from PTSD, bacteria, teething or dietary challenges as their nutritional needs consistently change as a calf grows. But our team continue to see to every hurdle with efficient care and the assistance of Dr Rogers and trusted elephant advisors.
What was probably Khanyisa's most important year, in terms of healing, change, growth and settling in, especially considering her fragile state, was greatly complemented by her gradual integration into the Jabulani herd.
The Jabulani herd of rescued elephants, all mostly orphans themselves, have taken in and adopted orphans before with great success.
Khanyisa's journey began right beside the herd in our orphanage nursery, with dedicated carers and her companion sheep, Lammie, by her side, giving round-the-clock care, support and attention.
It's amazing now to look back and think of the early days when Khanyisa would only spend two hours out with the herd in the reserve on their walks, and then four hours, and then longer days, from 6AM to 2PM, and even joining them for their afternoon swims.
Today, she is with the herd from around 6AM to 6PM, right by their side, getting her milk bottles at several stages throughout the day.
Lundi was chosen to be Khanyisa's adoptive mother and felt like the ideal choice. Lundi and Khanyisa took to one another beautifully, with Khanyisa instinctively trying to suckle her.
Lundi has been exceptional in her role, taking in Khanyisa as her own, but many of the other elephants have played vital roles in Khanyisa's Big Year too, including her allomothers who stepped in to help with motherhood duties.
Together, the herd has not only been able to give Khanyisa the essential elephant wisdom (from digging roots to swimming in the deep end), support and protection that she has needed and will continue to call on, but they have taught us humans too, around the world, about motherhood, acceptance and love.
Little orphan Timisa, who was adopted into the Jabulani herd in 2016, has bonded beautifully with Khanyisa, with the two youngsters often enjoying sisterly playtime on walks together. Kumbura, another orphan accepted into the herd, in 2009, has been like a big sister to Khanyisa, both attentive and protective towards her, with a gentle motherliness.
Khanyisa's relationship with each member of the herd has grown so naturally and given us all great assurance in this path for her... as a rescued orphan with a new herd.
As she continues to grow and develop, under the wing (trunk) of her family and with the love and care of our carers, Khanyisa continues to shine a light into the world, reminding us to never give up hope, to help wherever we can, and to accept one another, whatever our differences.
We couldn't be prouder of and more grateful for this anniversary.
Every elephant needs a herd and we certainly feel as though we have managed to give Khanyisa, this courageous little ellie, a life with one loving and magnificent herd indeed!
Thank you to Dr Rogers and our wildlife experts, our incredible and generous foster parents, donors, partners and supporters, our followers and community, our team (elephant, sheep and human alike)!
HERD relies on funding to cover our operational costs as well as the high costs of Khanyisa's care. If you would like to contribute, please consider donating to HERD or fostering Khanyisa: DONATE | FOSTER