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Meet Khensani Ngobeni

Junior Nursery Carer at HERD

When a young elephant loses its mother, it is left alone, vulnerable and at risk of predation. The world must suddenly become a scary place. Thankfully, there are amazing people who have dedicated their lives to rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned elephants, providing them with the support they need to recover from the traumatic experiences they’ve endured.

Khensani Ngobeni is one of these people. She works for HERD elephant orphanage in South Africa, where she works as a carer, helping to rehabilitate orphaned elephants so that they can live a healthy, happy life back in a wild environment one day.

Khensani is an important member of the ‘human herd’ that provides the orphaned elephants with the care they need, offering them protection, security and comfort. Khensani joined HERD as a Trainee Carer, and her personality and nature made her fit perfectly into the human herd; she is soft, strong, intuitive and kind.

Khensani grew up in a township in the Mpumalanga province in South Africa, which is close to HERD. When Khensani heard of the opportunity to work with orphaned elephants, she took it and hasn’t looked back. Khensani always knew that she wanted to work in a field of helping others, and worked hard to secure the permanent position of Junior Carer at HERD.

Elephants are targeted and killed by poachers for their ivory tusks, which are used to carve ornaments to feed the demand in the Asian market. An elephant’s life ends, and an entire herd can be disrupted, just so that a mantelpiece can be adorned with a decorative object, that was once part of an incredible animal. When a female elephant is killed for her tusks, often her calf is left behind. Newly orphaned, the calf is left to fend for itself without the protection of its mother. The chances of survival are low, especially if the calf is still dependent on its mother’s nutrient-rich milk.
Another reason that young elephants become orphaned is human-elephant conflict. With expanding human populations resulting in shrinking wild spaces, elephants are often forced to roam through human settlement areas. Sometimes, this leads to people chasing the elephants away in order to protect their families and crops. As the elephants are chased away, the young calves in the herd can be left behind as they cannot keep up. Unable to reunite with their herd, they sadly become orphaned and their life takes a tragic turn.
Once rescued, these fragile orphaned elephants require around-the-clock care from their carers so that they can overcome the physical and emotional trauma of losing their mother and natal herd. It can take up to ten years or more for an orphaned elephant to overcome their trauma and become fully independent. Sadly, they have a long journey ahead of them.

When we met Khensani, we also met one of the orphaned elephants that she cares for at HERD – little Khanyisa.

Khanyisa was rescued at just 4 months old after being found all alone and caught in a snare, which had caused horrific injuries. She was taken to the orphanage and into the compassionate hands of Khensani and the team. At just 21 years old, Khensani has chosen to dedicate her life to caring for orphaned elephants, and she has so many responsibilities at such a young age. From heading out to urgent rescues, mixing specialised milk formulas and assisting with wound treatments, Khensani is involved in every aspect of an orphaned elephant’s rehabilitation. We could clearly see that Khensani’s heart was in everything she does; her compassion was palpable.

As one of two female carers at HERD, Khensani is demonstrating how women can successfully work in elephant conservation, not only using their knowledge and skills to help orphaned elephants survive, but also using their maternal nature to give the orphans the emotional support they desperately need after being cruelly separated from their mother. Khensani is playing an important part in Khanyisa’s life, providing her with the comfort and care she needs to get through this difficult time of her young life.

Khensani is a true inspiration, and is the perfect example of how a woman can achieve her dreams, even at such a young age. We’re sure that the young girls from Khensani’s community see her as a role model, and know that they can also reach their goals, secure the career they want, and be who they want to be.

We feel excited for Khensani, as she has her entire career ahead of her and we can only imagine that she will help so many elephants in need in the years to come.

We are so glad that Khanyisa has someone like Khensani to care for her. They are on a journey together, growing from strength to strength – Khanyisa is becoming stronger and healthier, whilst Khensani is becoming more knowledgeable and experienced.

Thank you, Khensani, for your dedication to helping orphaned elephants like Khanyisa.

Watch this film to hear Khensani's story and learn more about the work she is doing to protect and care for elephants.

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Learn more about how you can help support the work Khensani and the team at HERD are doing to help protect orphaned elephants

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