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She was only a few days old when rescuers found her trapped in a ditch, dehydrated and in grave danger of dying from heat stroke.
Beatrix the orphan baby elephant was nursed back to good health but her traumatic start to life had left her feeling timid all the time.
Then Kadiki, an older orphan at the same sanctuary, stepped in to help. As our heart-warming pictures show, she even gently wrapped her trunk around Beatrix to reassure her the day she first met other – and much bigger – members of the herd at their haven in Zimbabwe.
‘Elephants never forget’, or so the old adage goes. In this case, Kadiki could perhaps have been remembering her own tough start when she dished out the ‘trunk cuddles’.
Beatrix the orphan baby elephant was nursed back to good health but her traumatic start to life had left her feeling timid all the time. Then Kadiki, an older orphan at the same sanctuary, stepped in to help
The Mail reported in 2019 how Kadiki, whose name means ‘the little one’ in the local Shona language, survived against the odds after being attacked by a lion when only a day old, suffering deep claw wounds to her trunk and terrible damage to her tail.
She was taken in by veteran animal rescuer Roxy Danckwerts, founder of the Wild Is Life charity and its Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery (ZEN). After surgery to amputate part of her tail and treatment to her trunk, Kadiki was well enough to walk about again despite being on a drip. She is now thriving.
Roxy Danckwerts added: ‘I truly believe in the culture of care; humans and animals inspiring others to protect and nurture, and to value the importance of conservation. This message has hit home more than ever during the challenges of lockdown. I hope these elephants’ stories will encourage others to do all they can to protect wildlife.’
Elephants live in a matriarchal society with ‘aunty’ figures helping to care for a herd’s young in the wild. When Beatrix arrived at the sanctuary shortly before Christmas, keepers expected another, older female elephant called Moyo, eight, would be the one to look out for little Beatrix, as she had done with others.
But to their surprise – and joy – two-year-old Kadiki has taken on the mantle of ‘mother’. Keepers say she has formed an ‘extraordinary bond’ with Beatrix, has been ‘patient and kind’ and protective over the youngster.
Elephants live in a matriarchal society with ‘aunty’ figures helping to care for a herd’s young in the wild
Roxy Danckwerts tends stricken Kadiki after she first arrived at the sanctuary in 2019 having been bitten by a lion
Miss Danckwerts, 55, who has rescued around 25 elephants in the past seven years, said: ‘You think you know so much about them then they do something else extraordinary. There is so much we can learn from them, most of all their acceptance of others.
‘Beatrix was about an hour from death when she was found and arrived extremely highly strung, trying to run away. Kadiki quickly took Beatrix under her wing, cared for her, showed her the ropes and built her confidence. I think she needed that to pull through.’
As well as giving her comforting ‘trunk cuddles’, under Kadiki’s watchful eye Beatrix has become more self-assured and now enjoys playing with her human carers, even rolling about on the grass with one.
Now just over one month old, Beatrix is also learning about mud baths, which are important for elephants. As they have minimal hair and sweat glands, they find it difficult to cool off under the harsh African sun. The mud cools them down and provides a protective layer on their body to shield them from the rays.
Another orphan, Bumi, who also featured in the Mail’s 2019 report and was rescued after getting stuck among rocks and suffering extreme sunburn, is now one of the more boisterous teenagers in the sanctuary’s herd
The International Fund for Animal Welfare-supported nursery near Harare hopes that Beatrix, Kadiki, Bumi and other elephants it has rescued will eventually be transported to Panda-Masuie, a forest reserve near Victoria Falls where they can be free from poaching or hunting and prepare for integration into wild herds.
Neil Greenwood, IFAW Regional Director, Southern Africa, said: ‘IFAW believes in the value and importance of rescuing individual animals, one at a time. By doing so we can also help safeguard populations for the future and the habitat that we all call home.
‘The lives of animals and humans are inextricably linked. We are very proud to be involved in this vital project which enables elephants to thrive, return to the wild and have room to roam.’