In South Africa, a German Shepherd dog is helping to raise a baby elephant who was abandoned and rejected by his herd.
The young African bull calf, named Ellie, was rejected by his herd – probably because he was deathly ill. The young animal was then adopted by the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage, where his budding friendship with a resident dog started to flourish.
Duma, a German Shepherd dog, has formed an incredibly strong bond with little Ellie. His company is the major factor getting the baby elephant back on his feet.
According to Karen Trembler, a rehabilitation and crisis response expert, the elephant’s interactions with Duma were key to his improvement.
“What was a really interesting thing was the elephant calf was particularly weak and particularly ill. He was not showing much interest in doing anything; he was lethargic and distracted,” she told Earth Touch News. “We introduced Duma to the elephant at the sand pile and it immediately cheered the elephant up.”
The German Shepherd’s caring and playful demeanor has uplifted the baby elephant’s spirits. The dog has also become extremely protective of the baby elephant.
“It had a massive impact on Ellie in that he suddenly had a bit of interest in life again. Over the past few weeks they have been growing this relationship,” Trembler said. “You have a dog and an elephant who have totally different behaviors who are playing more and more. We have a hard time keeping Duma away; he is becoming increasingly protective!”
Ellie was abandoned by his herd for unknown reasons. The center made several attempts to reunite them.
When Ellie was found he had a large abscess on his belly button.
“It was very infected and there was a direct connection into his blood supply. In 99% of cases an umbilical abscess of that nature is fatal,” Trembler said. “Against all the odds this little elephant is still with us.”
Aside from the infection, feeding Ellie was also a big problem because he was milk intolerant–even with the special milk imported from Zimbabwe and Kenya.
Luckily, the workers at the orphanage have found a solution – feeding Ellie rice combined with protein, minerals and coconut.
The center staff hopes to find Ellie another herd. They are planning to either integrate him into an existing herd, or start a whole new one with a group of abandoned elephants.