Baby elephants don’t just need milk to thrive in their early years, they need the social support of a herd. And orphans even more so, with all they’ve been through being separated from their family. Even though the females in our Jabulani herd weren’t lactating and able to provide Khanyisa and other orphans with milk, Khanyisa still chose to suckle from them, and the females obliged by putting their front leg forward for her to reach their teat, as you can see with Lundi here. Lundi was chosen to take on the role of Khanyisa’s mother, to adopt her as her own and guide her with the help of the rest of the herd. Khanyisa received great comfort and bonding from suckling from her mother and allomothers and took full advantage of the range of willing cows. We don’t doubt that this emotional nourishment helped her to flourish. A little love can go a long way.
Artwork by local South African artist, Maryke Vosloo.