Albino elephant almost killed by snare beats odds to thrive

Human overpopulation and dwindling wildlife habitats leading to rise in poaching

Jane Dalton
Friday 28 May 2021 14:31
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<p>The albino calf can shelter from the sun beside larger herd members</p>

The albino calf can shelter from the sun beside larger herd members

Khanyisa the albino almost didn’t make if past her first four months. Caught in a poaching snare that cut through her mouth, she was stranded for days, dehydrated and unable to eat because of her wounds.

The calf, who lived in South Africa's Kruger National Park, was one of the many victims of vicious snares lain by poachers to catch large game or smaller prey for food or for sale.

But she was one of the lucky ones: she was rescued and taken to a sanctuary, from where she was later transferred to the country’s first elephant orphanage.

Snaring is on the rise because of human overpopulation and dwindling wildlife habitats, according to Adine Roode, the founder of Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development (Herd), where Khanyisa now lives.

Many elephants in the herd were also orphaned and hand-raised, Ms Roode said.

Khanyisa is paler than most elephants

“I think that is part of the reason that they accept the orphans, because they know how it feels,” she said.

Albino elephants are rare, but those with the condition can adapt to their environment. Khanyisa, whose name means sunshine in the local Tsonga language, can shelter in larger elephants’ shadows on sunny days to protect her skin.

If the herd, led by a patriarchal bull, grows too large for the area, it will be released back into the wild.

Khanyisa has bonded with a sheep named Lammie, who has acted as a surrogate mother to orphaned rhinos and other elephant calves at the orphanage.

During the day, Khanyisa roams with the elephant herd, and at night she sleeps in an indoor pen with Lammie and another sheep.

“Lammie played a huge role in Khanyisa’s wellbeing, especially in the beginning. She helped Khanyisa to stay calm,” said Ms Roode.

She added that despite visible scarring from the snare, Khanyisa seems to enjoy being hand-raised and does not let her tough start in life stop her from “shining brightly among the other elephants”.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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