What it Takes to Care for Baby Elephants: #3 Carers

June 18, 2020

The Heart and Soul of HERD

One of the great essentials in caring for baby elephant orphans at HERD is our Carers! It takes a special person to look after elephant orphans around-the-clock and we are grateful to have a strong team of such people, at HERD and Jabulani. Our loving and passionate carers are dedicated to the rehabilitation and integration of elephant orphans and while the job may be highly rewarding, it's not always easy.

When a rescued orphan comes into the orphanage, it is traumatised and in many cases dehydrated, sunburnt and possibly injured, like little albino calf, Khanyisa, who arrived in January this year with severe lacerations from being trapped in a poaching snare.

Herman provides Khanyisa with her milk bottle while out on a walk with the Jabulani herd.

Because of their high intelligence and complexity, elephants are very different to other wild animals. Their needs are diverse and nuanced and require a special kind of management, one with heart and soul and respect, as well as family, stimulation and other essentials that we'll share next.

Junior carer, Reply spending quality time at the orphanage with Khanyisa.

At HERD, our dedicated elephant carers assist in 24-hour-shifts to ensure that the orphans are never left alone or without a carer. They play a significant role in nurturing the orphans with sustenance, healthcare, love, guidance and hugs too. They are the sole nurturers until the new orphans are strong enough to join the Jabulani herd and during the integrations they continue to give the orphans care at the nursery.

Many of the carers in our team at HERD and Jabulani came over from Zimbabwe with the original herd at Jabulani when they were rescued in 2002. The men were working with the herd in this neighbouring country and are highly experienced in caring for them.

Our “Human Herd” consists of carers with different roles.

There are our passionate junior nursery carers such as Khensani, Listen and Reply, who come from the community close to us, as part of our goal to provide jobs to local people living beside us in Hoedspruit. And then there our dedicated senior carers who have years of experience in looking after elephants: Joshua, Stavros, Herman, Samson, Godknows, Blessmore, Liverson, Simbarashe, and Israel, and our vital Elephant Managers, Tigere and Owen.

Joshua, one of our senior carers, showing Khensani (left) and Listen (right) the ropes as one of their supervisors.

These men and women play an invaluable role in each orphaned elephant’s wellbeing, ensuring that they have enough water and food, keeping them and the nursery grounds clean, providing company and playful stimulation for the orphans, and monitoring their health, wellness and safety at all times.

Junior carer, Khensani, captured by Black Bean Productions at HERD.

Our carers are - and need to be - well-equipped emotionally and physically to react to any situation that may arise, day or night, including our response teams who are on standby 24/7 year-round to react to any rescue operations.

The toll of this kind of work, physically, mentally and emotionally, is definitely not light and so making sure that we rotate our carers in shifts is vital. This also ensures that the orphans don't get used to only one carer.

Consistency of this core team is crucial, as the second loss of a ‘herd’ member can be extremely traumatic and can bring on a sudden change in the orphans’ health. This is part of the reason that we don't accept volunteers at HERD.

Liverson oversees Bubi and Khanyisa's bonding time in the beginning of the calf's interactions with the herd.

The senior carers play a role in training our junior team in new responsibilities, so that we can continue to up-skill and share the knowledge and experience gained over time.

Our human herd also includes carers of other kinds too... like wildlife vets and elephant experts, and Adine, the Founder of HERD, who has a unique wealth of experience and knowledge in the rehabilitation and integration of baby elephant orphans.

Adine has dedicated her time, especially during Lockdown, to the development of little Khanyisa, and together with the carers, has been there for the calf's every need and fancy throughout her gradual rewilding. Just like a mother elephant would be.

The success of HERD and the orphans in our care relies on many things, but without doubt our Carers are the glue that keeps everything together, the oil that keeps things moving smoothly, and the engine that keeps us strong!

The funds raised through our online fundraising initiatives go not only to the care of orphans like Khanyisa and to the herd, but also to supporting the incredible carers who look after them.

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