Meet the Human HERD - This is Junior Elephant Carer, Khensani

May 17, 2020
Junior Nursery Carer, Khensani with Khanyisa recently, during Lockdown.

Our family at HERD includes not only elephants (and sheep... Hi Lammie!), but also very important humans.

It is our human herd's role to care for the orphans, to protect and provide for them throughout the rehabilitation and reintegration phases of their development. Our human carer team includes many experienced hands helping daily to give little Khanyisa the best home possible, before she can join the Jabulani herd.

The carers' day-to-day tasks include countless heartwarming moments... Cuddling with the little albino calf in her tyre outside, sprinkling her sensitive pink skin with sand and water in her pool, curling up with her in the nursery at night. Walking beside her in the wild with the other elephants and watching over her while she splashes joyfully in the dam...

The early days, when Khanyisa's wounds were still healing.

It is also, however, a job that is taxing, physically, mentally and emotionally, and one that takes a very special person. Our carers need to endure early mornings, late nights, and the rollercoaster that the journey can sometimes be. They need to have great empathy and compassion, and be willing to give their whole hearts and presence, around the clock, to protect and help the orphans grow into strong adults.

One of these carers is Junior Nursery Carer, Khensani Ngobeni.

Khensani started at HERD as a trainee carer. Since the very beginning, she has always had a sort of strong softness (or a soft strength...), a kindness and intuition that surpasses anything learnt in a textbook. Her caring nature is innate and a great asset to our already incredible human herd!

Since the arrival of little Khanyisa, Khensani has dedicated herself to the care of the calf with great love, energy and loyalty. Khensani was at home for the first part of South Africa's COVID-19 Lockdown, but recently returned to join our Lockdown Crew and take up her duties.

Khanyisa's health has been very up and down for the last week and having Khensani's warm spirit there to keep her calm and secure has been invaluable. During Khanyisa's recent blood transfusion, Khensani was the perfect nurse throughout the procedure, showing her natural ability to care for elephants, keeping a firm, friendly hand on the baby's side continuously. Bear in mind that Khanyisa will soon be taller than her nurse...

More about Khensani...

Khensani Ngobeni is our youngest carer, at 22 years old, and comes from Acornhoek, a township close to us in the Mpumalanga province. Our two female nursery carers (Khensani and Listen) are both from the nearby community. It is our hope to create more and more opportunities for local women, to help empower, educate and inspire the people that we live with and alongside.

In this way we believe we may also help to show them the value of protecting our wildlife and wilderness and how the latter can create jobs and steady income. Our carers then become essential messengers to help build a community where man and animal can live in harmony together.

Drinks and cuddles between Khensani & Khanyisa.

The stories that Khensani takes home with her during her breaks are not your average office tales, but rather ones that open eyes and hearts to nature’s wonders and importance.

“I finished my Matric in 2017 and then did computer studies in 2018," Khensani says. "Afterwards I planned to do a gap year, but someone I knew suggested working with elephants in need and I took the opportunity immediately. And I’m so glad that I did.”

The Lockdown Crew at HERD, with Khensani giving Khanyisa an evening milk bottle - with the Jabulani herd in the distance.

“I learnt everything on the job and through training, but it was hard when I started, because I didn’t have the experience, but now I really understand the orphans and have fitted well into the routines and ways of the elephants. When I met the Jabulani herd for the first time, it was my first time seeing a big elephant, and it was scary. I even prayed all the way to where they were in the bush. But when we got there and was standing close to them, I felt better. Because those big elephants are used to humans and I was taught how to act - to give them space and be respectful. But then they started to chase a lion and I got scared again. I thought the lion was going to kill them, but the carers told me that an elephant will beat a lion.”

"It's my role at HERD to help look after the orphans...

"During my shift, I spend a lot of time with Khanyisa, feeding her, playing with her, accompanying her on walks, and talking to her... starting with asking her how she slept the night before. My favourite part of the job is exercising with the orphans. I hope that one day these babies will be big and strong like the Jabulani herd! This is definitely much more than a job to me."

Khensani staying by Khanyisa's side throughout her recent blood transfusion.

We are so grateful for the hard work of our human HERD and the kind hearts that donate toward the vital work of HERD, South Africa’s first dedicated elephant orphanage, helping us to save, rehabilitate and rewild orphaned elephants. We rely on public funding to remain operational from month to month. Every cent counts, and there is no contribution too small.

If you would like to play a role in giving elephant orphans a second chance at life, please donate or foster a baby elephant.

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