Shortly after this baby elephant was born he was tragically cast aside by his herd. Small and young without anyone to fend for him, things looked bleak for the adorable elephant calf. In the wild, elephants thrive in group situations, and being alone can be extremely dangerous to the species’ young. But something completely unexpected would intervene and give the orphaned elephant new chances for survival. At first, it wasn’t clear what would become of the abandoned elephant, but no one could foresee the impact that an unlikely bond would have on the little animal. Read on for a truly remarkable story.
When rescuers in South Africa found an ill baby elephant that had been abandoned by his herd his chances for survival were slim. The tiny calf had miraculously survived on his lonesome for days, but he was in need of dire care and attention..
The team of dedicated wildlife rescuers who had found the infant African elephant would attempt no lack of efforts to get the elephant calf back on his feet. However, despite their best efforts, no one expected that an unlikely bond would provide the best medicine.
Being with his own kind would have been best for the baby elephant’s wellbeing. Therefore, animal experts made several attempts to reunite the calf with his herd in Hluhluwe’s Bonamanzi Game Reserve. However, the rescuers weren’t expecting the outcome of their efforts.
Sadly, the baby elephant’s herd didn’t take to the little guy and he was again left without his elephant family. At that point, the human wildlife rescuers took things into their own hands but no one could have expected the unbelievable series of events that would ensue.
The rescued elephant was just two weeks old when he arrived at the Thula Thula Private Game Reserve for rehabilitation in Zululand, South Africa in August 2015. Once at the first costume-made sanctuary of its kind in the area the elephant was named Ubuntu, and was known affectionately as Ellie.
The adorable Ellie the elephant initially underwent a thorough assessment upon his arrival at the African wildlife rehabilitation sanctuary. But veterinary experts were shocked to find the heartbreaking reason why the adorable elephant calf’s herd had likely left him behind.
It was lucky Ellie the elephant had been found by rescuers when he was because sadly the little calf was fighting to survive. The young elephant was battled several debilitating ailments, most critical of which was an infected umbilical hernia.
Without medical treatment, the sick calf almost certainly would have faced a dim prognosis. In fact, the severe condition is fatal for about 99% of its sufferers. Determined to help, Ellie’s human caretakers were willing to do all they could to help but they still feared for his future.
A dedicated team at the animal sanctuary intensively worked around the clock in attempt to nurse Ellie the elephant back to health. Medical staff at the animal orphanage kept a close eye on the little elephant and provided 24-hour care.
In addition to Ellie’s life-threatening infections, the elephant’s system also faced another obstacle that could prove fatal. This new grave concern forced the sanctuary staff to think quickly if the calf would have any chance of pulling through at all.
Because his illness was so severe, Ellie the baby elephant had formed an intolerance to the milk that vets were feeding him. Again, his life was hanging in a precarious balance as he rejected the food that he so desperately needed to regain strength and boost his immune system.
The wildlife rehabilitation center staff tried feeding him a range of different kinds of milk that they specially ordered from Zimbabwe and Kenya. Still, he didn’t seem to be taking to any of the options and the situation grew increasingly critical.
Eventually, the staff at the African wildlife reserve concocted a special milk formula packed with much needed protein, minerals and coconut oil for little Ellie. To everyone’s relief, at that point, the elephant calf finally started to take to the formula.
As the orphaned baby elephant began ingesting his food, he slowly started to show signs of stabilizing. The situation was slightly more hopeful now that he seemed to be physically improving, however, his physical ailments weren’t all that were plaguing him.
“[The elephant] was particularly weak and particularly ill,” said Karen Trendler, a rehabilitation and crisis response expert treating Ellie at the animal orphanage. “He wasn’t showing much interest in doing anything. He was very lethargic, very disinterested.” But what could possibly be the reason for Ellie’s behavior?
Despite his newfound safety and all the affection and much needed treatment he received from his caregivers at the shelter, the young elephant appeared lonely, downtrodden and withdrawn. That was when caretakers made a heart-wrenching realization about the abandoned baby elephant.
It is a well known fact that elephants are very social animals and rely on communal bonds in the wild. After his traumatic start in life, Ellie the elephant seemed to be having a hard time overcoming the psychological strains that he had endured.
The lonely calf was having trouble adjusting without his herd even though he was physically improving. The rescued elephant’s psychological state seemed to be quickly declining. Not wanting to see the little elephant that had gone through so much already suffer anymore, the orphanage staff then did something that would have a life-altering impact on the orphaned baby elephant.
The Thula Thula wildlife rehabilitation reserve where Ellie was being cared for housed a variety of African wildlife in addition to the baby elephant. The game reserve was mainly home to poaching victims – rhinos in particular. However, it also took in buffalo, leopards, giraffes, zebras, hyenas, and crocodiles.
While there was no lack of potential friends for the young African elephant, Ellie didn’t seem interested in mingling with his neighbors. That was, however, until one special acquaintance would come along and form an unlikely bond with the little elephant.
Seeking to improve the poor little elephant’s mental health and well-being, experts at the wildlife rehabilitation center hoped to finally brighten Ellie’s mood when they introduced him to an adult male German Shepard named Duma, who also lived on the grounds.
Duma was a former police dog and was known for his particularly attentive and tender nature toward all creatures, including wild animals. Given Elli’s precarious condition, though, no one expected just what would happen between the two going forward. What arre the chances of a dog and an elephant getting along?
Much to their surprise and delight, Ellie’s caretakers saw an immediate change in the little rescued elephant’s behavior. “We introduced Duma and the elephant in the sandpile, and it immediately cheered the elephant up,” exclaimed orphanage expert Karen Trendler with excitement.
“And it also had a massive impact on the elephant in that he suddenly started getting a little bit of interest in life again,” Trendler added. “And over the past few weeks they’ve been growing this relationship.” But that wasn’t all.
Finally, it seemed that the baby elephant had a reason to live again. Although his physical afflictions weren’t completely healed yet, Ellie’s depression and fatigue seemed to evaporate away as the adorable yet unlikely pair of animal friends became all the more inseparable.
Ellie’s emotional improvement was all the more apparent as the elephant and dog friends were adorably found playing together in dirt mounds and sharing tender moments under trees. The baby elephant even appeared to be smiling when he got together with his pawed playmate. Despite the differences between the unlikely friends, Duma the dog also demonstrate a heart-warming change in behavior that no one expected.
The German Shepherd seemed to have taken on a paternal role when it came to the orphaned baby elephant. “We have a hard time keeping Duma away from the elephant. He’s become incredibly protective,” the animal orphanage said about the retired service dog.
Wherever Elli went, Duma could be found playfully and protectively running to-and-fro. Whether the dog brought his elephant offering of sticks or a comforting nuzzle, the frisky friends were completely happy in each other’s presence. Along with the emotional benefits, the mutually uplifting relationship also seemed to have an incredible physical influence.
“Against all odds, this little elephant is still with us,” said Trendler after the elephant and dog formed a friendship. For the first time since Ellie arrived at the reserve, his spirits were up and he seemed happy to be alive thanks to his bond with his new best friend, Duma.
Adorable videos of the unlikely animal friends showed them energetically playing together with tails wagging and spritely body language. As the weeks and months went by and the precious friendship only further blossomed. As Ellie’s health seemed to be ever on the rise, his dedicated team caregivers had to think long and hard about the elephant’s future.
Initially, caretakers and veterinarians at the wildlife reserve were planning to release Ellie from the orphanage when he managed to regain full strength. At that point, the rescued elephant would either be introduced to an existing herd of wild animals or join one consisting of other orphaned elephants.
As time passed, the wildlife experts at the shelter continued to contemplate the best course of action for Ellie the elephant in the future. In light of Ellie’s close connection with Duma the dog, however, things weren’t as certain about his future.
Thanks to the invaluable bond between the baby elephant and more mature dog, the sanctuary staff was released from the pressure to hurry to reintroduce the baby elephant into a social situation and risk rushing to return him to the wild before a full recovery.
Caregivers had initially sought to quickly re-release Ellie into the wild where he could be with his own species and again be part of herd society. However, with the care and protection, the elephant received from this dog friend, that objective was less urgent. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly, and that’s why no one was expecting a devastating turn of events that would soon catch everyone off guard.
Caretakers at the orphanage finally thought they could breathe a sigh of relief now that it seemed the baby elephant would finally pull through. Their dreams for the elephant would soon be thrown into question again when an unanticipated emergency struck.
Suddenly, after months at the wildlife rehabilitation sanctuary, Ellie’s health took an unexpected turn for the worse one unassuming day in January 2016. No ready to give up on the elephant, his determined caretakers immediately made an urgent request from anyone who could help.
“We need to get IV colloids bought thru for a collapsed elephant calf,” read a message Karen Trendler posted in a social media appeal for urgent veterinary assistance. The sanctuary staff couldn’t bear to stand by idly as the brave little elephant faced yet another trying hardship.
Despite the miraculous boost that Ellie’s friendship with Duma had on his physical and mental health, the elephant’s previous septicemia infection had relapsed and was spreading at an alarming rate. The poor little elephant was in a delicate condition and it wasn’t clear whether he’d make it through the night.
Much to the despair of everyone at the Thula Thula reserve, the adorable little Ellie the elephant only made it a few more days before he tragically passed away. It happened just five months after he’d arrived at the animal orphanage.
The Thula Thula reserve was flooded with condolences after they posted a touching announcement about the sad news. The intrepid little elephant who had fought so hard to overcome all the obstacles life had thrown at him was remembered for being “brave and tough.” But his moving story didn’t end there.
“Ellie has been returned to the wild buried in a special place at Thula where his spirit can roam with the herd,” read an emotional message from the wildlife conservation organization. Deeply affected by Ellie’s story, the animal sanctuary knew their efforts were all the more important.
Still, the orphanage staff was overcome with “deep sadness and so many tears.” Their only comfort was in the fact that he had been able to find happiness in his life thanks to his sweet friendship with Duma and that his legacy would forever live on in a meaningful way.
The world sadly had to say goodbye to Ellie the baby elephant at an untimely age, but his adopted family and fond fans will always remember him for his legacy of overcoming hardships and demonstrating tender love and kindness even in the most daunting of times.
Furthermore, the precious bond between Duma the dog and Ellie the elephant won’t soon be forgotten and will continue to warm the hearts of all who come across their story. Left without her friend Duma the dog was likely pretty down. However, his dampened spirits wouldn’t last too long as the loyal canine would soon find another adorable friend.
Undoubtedly feeling a huge void where his dear pal Ellie had been, it didn’t take long for Duma the dog to throw his energy into making friends with another baby animal that also needed cheering up at the wildlife sanctuary.
While Ellie’s place could never be taken, it appeared that the well-natured German Shepard was ready to share his compassion again when vets sought to introduce him to another mutually compassionate and beneficial friendship – this time with an orphaned baby rhinoceros.
It seemed that Duma the German Shepard had made something of a reputation for himself as the resident emotional support dog and adoptive parent for other animals at the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage. Having seen how beneficial her presence was for Ellie the elephant, the sanctuary staff was hoping for the same result with Nandi the rhino.
Like Ellie the elephant had, the baby black rhino had to adjust to life at the wildlife preserve after experiencing her own trauma. Poachers had reportedly killed Nandi’s mother when she was found by animal conservationists from the orphanage. But her transition from the wild wasn’t necessarily easy.
Nandi’s species of black rhinos is now an endangered species due to poaching, but such concerns weren’t on the little rhinos mind on the fateful day that she would meet her soon-to-be BFF, Duma. An expert at cheering up exotic animals, Duma had the perfect solution.
The ever-playful Duma approached the orphaned baby rhino with much curiosity and energy. But that wasn’t all. The German Shepherd had also brought with a stuffed animal toy in his mouth for his new found friend. That was when something beautiful happened.
Duma offered Nandi the fluffy toy puppy and, instantly, tails started wagging and games ensued. As a natural and clever leader, Duma led the way, teaching his new rhino friend a cute intra-species game. From there, a lot of precious hopping and playful chasing ensued.
It didn’t take long for Nandi the rhino to pick up on the game Duma had taught her, and as their unlikely friendship flourished, the rhino would eventually even become the one to start the games of friendly frolicking. From there, the two were inseparable, but what would happen when Nandi wasn’t a baby anymore?
As pictures and videos of the rhino and dog friends surfaced on the Internet, the unlikely animal duo became a worldwide viral sensation. Onlookers just couldn’t get enough of the adorable pair. But their bond also raised some serious questions.
The wildlife sanctuary that housed Duma and Nandi had apparently received some inquiries about what would happen to the animal friends when the rhino grew up. But the orphanage reassured that Duma was perhaps even more skilled than human handlers at sensing and reacting to the rhino’s moods.
“Fortunately Duma has been reared with rhino and worked with a much larger black rhino, he is exceptional at reading their behavior and seems to know when to get out of the way,” the orphanage said. “With the older rhino Duma would pick up that the rhino was going to charge even before we spotted the subtle changes.”
Duma certainly seemed to have a talent when it came to making friends and cheering up other animals in need. And while his connection to the likes of Ellie and Nandi was unique, they weren’t the only animals who’ve made unassuming bonds with surprising friends of different species – read on for another pair of unlikely animal friends that will make you say ‘OMG!’
Sources: Time, Daily Mail