This albino baby elephant rescued from a poaching trap has inspired the world for its incredible strength and resilience. Below is the story.
On January 8, 2020, Khanyisa arrived in the Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development (HERD) in South Africa, in the worst condition. The four-month-old calf was wrapped around the head by a trap, which severed the upper lobe of the left ear and caused tears around the head, mouth, neck, and cheeks.
Somehow, she had pulled the trap out of the ground; however, the trap still wrapped tightly around her head, causing her injury as its sharp edges continuously cut and dug in her flesh.
HERD staff is unsure if she survived, given the severity of her injury and emotional distress.
“It is not clear that the albino calf’s herd abandoned her before it was arrested or after the incident. It was a miracle that she had survived very long in the wild; she becomes dehydrated, and her eyes are swollen shut due to the pressure from the trap and swelling around the baby’s head. The trauma that she experienced, though not visible to the naked eye, would certainly be much deeper than the physical pain she suffered,” HERD stated in the report.
Khanyisa’s head was swollen. She could hardly open the eyes. However, after a good night’s sleep, she wakes up looking better the next day. The bump was slightly less, and she can turn on her eyes. That was when the reserve staff caught a look at her pretty blue eyes.
While the first 2 weeks, the team focused on treating and cleaning her wound. Dr. Peter Rogers, a wildlife veterinarian, stitched her cheeks together on January 16. Two weeks later, he cut off some dead skin around her wound and sewed her right ear.
Since the wound in her mouth healed, the calf had trouble drinking milk from the bottle, but her caregivers worked hard to get it right. They finally made it, and by the fourth week, the elephant began to complete most of her milk needs.
Thanks to the improved diet, baby elephants have achieved remarkable weight gain. Khanyisa weighed only 124 kg on arrival. But she weighed 159 kg by the end of February, meaning she had increased a total of 35 kg!
Since the baby elephant’s condition can change rapidly, Khanyisa’s caregivers will track her every movement hourly. Whenever they notice anything different from the baby elephant, the team will quickly resolve it.
The founder of HERD, Adine Roode, began treatment with stem cells on her wound to aid in the healing process’s final stages. Thankfully, it worked, and by March, all Khanyisa’s wounds healed.
When her physical recovery is complete, the staff slowly begins to put her into a new, waiting family – the rescued Jabulani elephant herd, mostly orphans.
They begin by walking into the herd’s cage during the day to get familiar with her surroundings and future family’s scent.
Jabulani was the first elephant she met, trunk to trunk. An older woman in the herd, Lundi, was determined to be Khanyisa’s adoptive mother. She then meets all of the elephants one by one until she is fully accepted into the herd!
The baby elephant also has a companion sheep named Lammie, who made its recovery and integration much more straightforward.
“At the time when we needed it the most, she gave us passion, hope, and joy, overcoming her horrible beginnings, healing the wound, overcoming illness, and being accepted. Get into a new herd of her own. The calf has relentlessly overcome all barriers with an exceptional amount of positivity and fight, and inspired us to do the same,” HERD told about Khanyisa.
This elephant’s nine-month recovery journey is genuinely heartwarming and inspiring. See Khanyisa and her friends below. Share the story with friends and your family!