Khanyisa’s Big Year

3rd Mar, 2021

Written by Tamlin Wightman – Media Coordinator, Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation & Development

Photographs supplied by HERD

In January, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the baby albino elephant orphan, Khanyisa, arriving at HERD (Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation & Development). (Read Khanyisa’s Happy Tale here)

One year ago, on that momentous day: the 8th of January 2020, Khanyisa arrived into our care at South Africa’s first dedicated elephant orphanage, HERD.

Lighting up the world

In her time in our care thus far, Khanyisa – which means light/sunshine – has not only healed physically but emotionally too. Her confidence, joy and trust have developed under the loving guidance and protection of our incredible, selfless carers Adine Roode (HERD Founder) and Elephant Manager Tigere, Lammie the Legendary Sheep companion, and the elephants who’ve become family to the calf.

The year gave Khanyisa so much in her second chance at life, but we could never have expected what it would give us.

Our hearts deepened and grew alongside her growing little body; our own fears and stress were placated by the courage she showed, bounding up to her herd for their daily walks, despite her past trauma – a trauma that’s hard to shake.

Our own herd expanded as hers did; we found like-minded people around the world willing to help us care for and support Khanyisa and the herd, people eager to learn more about elephants as Khanyisa opened up a new world of curiosity. The immense support that’s been shown for Khanyisa, the herd, and our team over the last year has given us such joy and connection to something much greater than our little sphere.

This is the important thing about conservation, as many of our followers have even stated: you teach a person about an animal and they learn to understand it. When they understand it, they learn to love it. And when they love, they want to protect it.

Our journey with Khanyisa has gone this extra, almost unexpected step… while doing our work to save her and carry her on her healing path to a herd of her own, we’ve been able to reach out to new people who may or may not have ever seen an elephant before and helped them see the beauty and magnificence of elephants and why we should protect them.

A year of miracles

For Khanyisa, her first year with us after being rescued has been one surrounded by love, from her very first night to today, as she walks happily with her mother, allomother, sisters, brothers and father figures in this unique herd of elephants.

She was rescued on the 7th of January 2020, having survived several days on her own in the wild, severely injured from a snare that had wrapped itself around her head, severing the top lobe of her left ear and causing severe lacerations around her head, neck, mouth, and cheeks. The four-month-old calf somehow freed the snare from the ground, but it remained wrapped around her, continually rubbing and cutting into her flesh.

It’s unclear if her herd had abandoned the albino calf before she was ensnared or after the incident. Either way, the fact that she survived so long at such a young age, all alone in the wild, is a miracle in itself. A year of miracles followed for the little calf on her road of rehabilitation and integration into her new family-in-waiting, the Jabulani Herd.

The most significant part of her rehabilitation process was the successful treatment of her wounds, thanks to the incredible work of wildlife vet Dr Peter Rogers.

Khanyisa has progressed from a dehydrated 124-kilogram animal to the healthy approximately 280-kilogram elephant she is today. 

Feeling joyful with the Jabulani Herd

The presence of the Jabulani Herd in Khanyisa’s big first year with us gave her so much, but very importantly, it gave her vital emotional support of adult and sub-adult elephants, as a social and sensitive calf.

The Jabulani herd of rescued elephants, all mostly orphans themselves, have taken in and adopted orphans before with great success. Khanyisa’s journey began right beside them in our orphanage nursery, with dedicated carers and her companion sheep, Lammie, by her side, giving round-the-clock care, support, and attention.

Together, the herd has not only been able to give Khanyisa the essential elephant wisdom (from digging roots to swimming in the deep end), support and protection that she’s needed and will continue to call on, but they’ve taught us humans too, around the world, about motherhood, acceptance, and love. Jabulani means “joy” in isiZulu.

Khanyisa’s relationship with each member of the herd has grown so naturally, on their 12-hour walks in the wilderness of a Big 5 reserve, and given us all great assurance in this path for her... as a rescued orphan with a new herd.

As she continues to grow and develop, under the wing (trunk) of her family and with the love and care of our carers, Khanyisa continues to shine a light into the world, reminding us to never give up hope, to help wherever we can, and to accept one another, whatever our differences.

We couldn’t be prouder of, and more grateful for, this anniversary.

Every elephant needs a herd, and we certainly feel as though we’ve managed to give Khanyisa, this courageous little ellie, a life with one loving and magnificent herd indeed!

Thank you to Dr Rogers and our wildlife experts, our incredible and generous foster parents, donors, partners and supporters, our followers and community, our team (elephant, sheep and human alike)!

For more info about HERD, please visit and follow them on social media.


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