Meet the Human Herd ~ Elephant Advisor, Dr Yolanda Pretorius
They say it takes a village to raise a child and this is a sentiment that's just as applicable to raising a baby elephant. We have a team of several experienced and knowledgeable elephant advisors who we turn to often, to ensure we give Khanyisa and future orphans the best care possible. Just as every elephant needs a herd, so do we, the people taking care of them.
Dr Yolanda Pretorius is one of our treasured advisors, and has been from the moment when Khanyisa first arrived at the orphanage.
Yolanda has been working with elephants for over 20 years and sits on the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group (ESAG) - as Vice Chairperson - and the Elephant Integration Trust - as a Trustee. We have been lucky to have had her wisdom and understanding to guide Adine in her work in elephant conservation for more than two years so far.
Adine met Yolanda through ESAG and discovered that she was working as a consultant on elephant behaviour. Adine recognised her unique expertise and contracted her to assist with two key tasks that are very important to our work in rehabilitating and integrating elephant orphans.
The first task is assessing both the Jabulani herd and the HERD orphans' behaviours, before and after rehabilitation and integration, and the second is recommending timelines and processes for integration.
Yolanda has spent years researching elephants in intensively managed reserves and carrying out nutritional studies on wild elephants in the Kruger Park of South Africa. Her qualifications include working at the University of Pretoria, where she was a lecturer for four years, in Wildlife Nutrition and Wildlife Science, working under Professor Eddie Webb at the Centre for Wildlife Management.
She has a BScC(Agric) in Animal and Wildlife Science, and Honours in Wildlife Management and a Masters in Biology with a thesis on tourism and disrupted social structure as potential causes of stress for elephants. Elephant Behaviour, with a focus on stress in tourism-related and disrupted social structures.
She has thoroughly studied the topic of potential stress for elephants on small game reserves, completed her PhD in Ecology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and studied the nutrient intake rates and special mouth adaptations of mega-herbivores such as elephant in the Kruger National Park during this time.
She was with Adine for the introduction of little orphan, Shawu, in 2018, and observed the entire process and helped compile essential reports. Working together with her now at HERD, we are so grateful for her support and partnership. We learn more and more about the incredible elephant species each day we get to spend in her company.
About Adine, Yolanda says, "Adine takes every recommendation seriously. Every time I return to HERD, I can see the changes that Adine has implemented following the advice I have given. She gets lots of opinions from various people with various experience from different
backgrounds and I am really appreciate this as many people in the conservation industry have too much pride and don't ask for advice or assistance."
About the new orphanage at HERD, she says, "It is very well-equipped and well-thought out to cope with all needs of orphans. I am impressed with the staff, how data is collected each day, and how well they monitor the baby elephant."
"I am still surprised at how amazing the Jabulani herd are at adopting wild orphans. Wild elephants do not easily accept elephants outside of their herd due to their tight social bonds and being genetically related. The sooner we introduce the babies to the herd the better."
Our village is all the stronger for people like Yolanda being a part of it, helping us to pioneer this new ground in South Africa, as the country's first dedicated elephant orphanage. Having her support us and the elephant orphans and herd in the journey, from rehabilitation to integration, deeply comforts and inspires us.
Together, we are stronger.
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