Meet baby elephant Ellie.
The little elephant, rejected by his herd, was taken to the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage in Zululand, South Africa — a sanctuary usually reserved for baby rhinos who are victims of poaching. When Ellie first arrived, he was critically ill due to an umbilical hernia and abscess, which can cause life-threatening infections. He also developed a severe intolerance to milk.
Thankfully, sanctuary staff were able to provide Ellie with a special milk formula and give him round-the-clock care to help him through his health issues.
"Against all odds, this little elephant is still with us," says Karen Trendler, a rehabilitation and crisis response expert, in a YouTube video posted by Earth Touch.
The narrator of Earth Touch's video notes that because elephants are highly social animals that rely on the support of their family group, Ellie also had to deal with the psychological struggle of being away from his herd.
"[The elephant] was particularly weak and particularly ill," says Trendler. "He wasn't showing much interest in doing anything. He was very lethargic, very disinterested..."
But things took a turn for the better the moment Ellie was introduced to Duma, a former service and sniffer dog. When the two met, Ellie's caretakers saw noticeable changes in the elephant's behavior.
"We introduced Duma and the elephant in the sandpile, and it immediately cheered the elephant up," says Trendler. "And it also had a massive impact on the elephant in that he suddenly started getting a little bit of interest in life again. And over the past few weeks they've been growing this relationship."
"We have a hard time keeping Duma away from the elephant. She's become incredibly protective."
The narrator notes Ellie's future is still uncertain, as he will eventually have to leave the orphanage to join a herd — either an existing one or a herd made up of other orphaned elephants — but for now, he is being loved and cared for by staff members and his new doggy best friend.