Friendships can happen in the unlikeliest of times and places, and in the case of one baby elephant, an unusual friendship saved his life. Here's the story of Ellie and the amazing friend who gave Ellie a reason to keep living.
Ellie's elephant herd rejected him shortly after his birth. He was suffering from numerous serious medical issues, including a severe milk allergy and an umbilical cord hernia that was infected. The Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage in South Africa took Ellie in, hoping to heal him.
Even though the facility focuses on saving and protecting rhino from poachers, the compassionate members of the organization decided to try to save him. His umbilical cord injury alone was life-threatening, but Karen Trendler, the facility's rehabilitation and crisis response expert, noted that "Against all odds, this little elephant is still with us."
Although Ellie's physical needs were being met, there was still the psychological challenges of his situation to consider. Elephants are highly socialized animals who travel in herds, depending on their family for support and companionship.
Here at the rhino orphanage, Ellie had no one but his rescuers. Depression set in.
Then everything changed with the arrival of Duma, a German Shepherd and former service and sniffer dog. Trendler introduced the two animals at a sand pile, and a bond formed. "It immediately cheered the elephant up," says Trendler. "It had a massive impact on the elephant in that he suddenly started getting a little bit of interest in life again."
With Duma, baby Ellie has found a protector. German Shepherds are well-known for their work as police and service dogs, but they are also an affectionate, protective, and highly-intelligent working breed.
Duma and Ellie have become the best of friends. Trendler states, "They are playing more and more. We have a hard time keeping Duma away from the elephant. She has just become incredibly protective."
Eventually, Ellie will need to join an existing elephant herd or become part of a new one made up of other orphaned elephants. Until then, he has his best friend Duma always at his side to watch over him.
Watch the incredible story of the friendship between Ellie and Duma, and share their love with your family and friends on Facebook.