There's nothing like a heartwarming rescue story, especially when it involves two adorable animals. That's what happened in South Africa, where a baby giraffe was found all on his own. Fortunately, there was an animal rehabilitation center nearby that was willing to help. There, the baby giraffe made his first and best friend, a dog named Hunter. The entire team, including Hunter, fell head over heels for the calf, who they named Jazz. Continue reading for more on this unlikely story of friendship.
An Unusual Discovery
Africa is known for its incredible safari life, so spotting a wild animal isn't uncommon in many parts of the continent. While it would terrify some to occupy the same space as a giant mammal, it's a fascinating experience that captivates those who have a taste for adventure.
A South African farmer is one of those individuals who would be used to spotting elephants, rhinos, and other large creatures roaming around. Still, he knew something was wrong when he saw a particular creature out in the distance.
It Was A Baby Giraffe
Upon closer inspection, it became clear to the farmer that this was a baby giraffe. Not only was the little calf all on its own, but it also appeared to be no more than a few days old.
Giraffes are massive creatures from the moment they are born. They come into the world at a staggering six-feet-tall and weigh about 150 pounds, according to PBS. This animal was not one to mess around with, but it did appear to need some help.
Where Were Its Parents?
As large as a baby giraffe is, fully grown ones are much bigger. An adult giraffe can grow up to 14 feet tall for females and 18 feet for males, and weigh up to 3,000 pounds!
Like many mammals, the calves rely on fully-grown giraffes for protection. According to GiraffeWorlds, a newborn giraffe can stand just 20 minutes after being born. Still, it needs to stick close to its mother to remain protected from predators.
A Safe Haven
Since the newborn was clearly without its family, the farmer who spotted it knew he had to find a safe haven for the calf. The closest one was not a giraffe sanctuary, but rather a rhino rehabilitation center.
Though it wasn't their specialty, The Rhino Orphanage agreed to care for the baby giraffe. The caretakers couldn't turn down a helpless creature. They hoped that they could at least prepare the giraffe for life on its own and return it to the wild.
In Good Hands
The team had a deep love and appreciation for wildlife, and wanted to save any animal they possibly could. They could tell right away that there was something off about the newborn.
Given that the mother had left her offspring so helpless, it was possible that she knew something was wrong. It was also probable that she had no means to help the creature. Fortunately, there was a team of humans who would do all they could to help the baby giraffe.
A Rough Start
The sweet baby giraffe was in critical condition when it arrived. He spent the first 18 hours in a comatose state. The team prepared for the worst while fighting for the calf's life. Dr. Pierre Bester, the veterinarian at The Rhino Orphanage, gave the baby giraffe an IV to provide immediate hydration and nutrients.
It wasn't just separation from his mother that was causing these health concerns. It was becoming more apparent that an underlying health condition was prohibiting the baby giraffe from functioning.
The Report Is In
The vet reported that the baby giraffe, who they had named Jazz, had hyphema and brain hemorrhaging. He also couldn't regulate the blood pressure in his brain, which is especially vital for an animal with such a long neck.
Why Jazz was suffering from these things was not clear, but it could have been a genetic defect. The team had a strong feeling that this was why his mother left him, since it would have been her instinct to do so.
His New Sidekick
There was one animal who refused to leave Jazz's side, and that was a dog named Hunter. The Belgian Malinois was a member of The Rhino Orphanage team who loved keeping the rhinos company.
Hunter was not your average dog, as he seemed to want nothing more than to provide company to any suffering animals. He gently watched over Jazz from the moment the calf was taken in. Hunter did not leave Jazz's side, even as the baby struggled to regain consciousness.
Though Jazz's condition was hard to take, Hunter appeared hopeful. The dog gradually crept closer to the sleeping giraffe, doing all he could to comfort the poor creature.
Jazz was just a newborn and had yet to experience much of life. Hunter and the crew showed the calf more love than it had ever felt in his short time on Earth. Though things looked bleak at first, it wouldn't be long before all of that support reaped positive results.
Feeling The Love
Hunter was very skilled at comforting Jazz without smothering the young animal. Jazz clearly appreciated Hunter's patience, because before long he was shifting to get closer to the dog.
Jazz was looking more and more at peace each day with Hunter by his side. The dog selflessly offered his company, and now the baby giraffe was showing that he appreciated the favor. Though the animals were different species, they had managed to become friends.
Things Started Looking Up
Before long, Jazz was looking like any normal baby giraffe. He was sitting tall at his best friend's side. Meanwhile, Hunter looked happier than ever. With any luck, he'd be running and playing with his new friend in no time.
Still, Jazz would need lots of rest. His condition wasn't going to just go away, but the team had been doing everything they could. The calf was at least at a point where he could function.
The Family He Never Had
The team caught one of the most precious moments between Jazz and Hunter on camera. The two were snuggling one another, Jazz's face resting on Hunter's shoulder and Hunter's face burrowed into Jazz's neck.
The baby giraffe clearly needed some love and affection, and Hunter was quick to offer that to him. The dog had experience consoling animals in need before, but this was something special. Unlike the rhinos, Jazz was the only one of his kind around.
In This Together
Hunter seemed to know that Jazz needed special company since there weren't any other giraffes around. Being a baby with a life-threatening illness and no family around, Jazz needed Hunter more than he possibly could have known.
Now that the two had become close enough to start having snuggle sessions, they were practically inseparable. Hunter dedicated his days to being with Jazz, and Jazz perked up despite his unfortunate circumstances, over which he had no control.
Getting Back On His Feet
It's normal to see a little baby human struggling to walk for quite some time after birth. As we mentioned earlier, giraffes are quite different in terms of their mobility. They practically come out of the womb walking, so having Jazz lying down all the time was not normal.
Though he needed to regain his strength, it came time to give standing a try. It took the support of the team to get Jazz on all fours again.
Once Jazz was back on his feet, it was as though he realized what he'd been missing. The team hung plants from a string so that Jazz could eat the way he would if he were out in nature.
Through all of his progress, Hunter didn't leave his side. The dog wasn't going to scurry away just because Jazz was standing again. He lounged on Jazz's bed and watched his friend's progress with gentle pride.
Now that Jazz was off the IV, he could transition to a normal diet for giraffes. Aside from plants, the team fed Jass milk through a bottle. This is the same technique that they use for the rhinos.
Feeding the baby giraffe was a little different than feeding a baby rhino, specifically because of Jazz's height. Furthermore, his height would double by the time he reached a year old, which is about the time he'd no longer need milk.
Too much time indoors isn't good for anyone, but especially not for a wild animal. It was time at last for Jazz to get back outside. Naturally, his best friend Hunter would be right by his side.
The Rhino Orphanage had plenty of roaming space for the rhinos, so Jazz would be able to wander free while still remaining safe. Hunter and his young friend were finally able to have a lighthearted moment of play.
In His Natural Element
Finally back where he belonged, Jazz appeared to be wearing a smile while he was out in the warm sun. The baby giraffe could stretch its neck up to actual trees, as opposed to the makeshift plant holders inside.
Absorbing the sunshine and running around with his friend lifted Jazz's spirits even more. Though he had received plenty of love and attention inside, he was finally able to experience what life was like as a normal, healthy giraffe.
Surrounded By Love
Though Jazz was able to catch a glimpse of a normal life, he still had a condition that would demand more rest. Fully-grown giraffes have hearts that measure two feet long and weigh 25 pounds, according to the San Diego Zoo.
Their hearts normally pump 16 gallons a minute, but Jazz's condition was significantly detrimental as it impacted his circulation. When it was time to go back in and rest, Jazz had his best friend Hunter by his side, along with some human friends.
Thank You Kisses
Jazz was so appreciative to Hunter that he became quite affectionate. Here he is giving the sweet dog kisses with his long face. Meanwhile, Hunter has his adorable paw on Jazz's leg.
Their sweet story goes to show that love has no bounds. Though Jazz may not have gotten to have the normal life of a baby giraffe, he at least got to experience a caring family who stuck by his side no matter what.
An Elephant Is Abandoned By Its Herd
No one knows for sure (there are theories) why this baby elephant was abandoned by its herd in South Africa, but if it weren't for a rescue team finding him, he never would have never had a chance at survival. Malnourished and sick, the team knew it was going to face an uphill battle to save his life.
Luckily, this was one uphill battle they were prepared to fight. Their original plan was to get the baby healthy enough to have another herd adopt it. No one expected the best medicine the elephant would receive would end up complicating those plans.
The Importance Of Growing Up In The Herd
The best thing possible for the abandoned elephant would have been to re-introduce it with a herd as quickly as possible. Living on a reserve, the rescuers knew what herd the little fella belonged to and tried their best to reunite him with his family.
Tragically, the herd rejected several attempts to take the baby back, leaving the team baffled about what to do next. They quickly realized their only course of action to save the elephant was to take care of it themselves, then try and release it back into its herd again.
The Rescue Team Named The Baby Elephant Ellie
The abandoned elephant was two years old when it came to the Thula Thula Private Game Reserve in Zululand, South Africa. The rehabilitation team at the reserve gave the elephant two names: Ubuntu and Ellie. Ellie quickly captured everyone's heart, and everyone knew his time was running out.
The first thing the team had to do at the reserve was give Ellie a thorough health assessment. They needed to learn what was wrong with Ellie before they could treat him.
Ellie Was Given A One Percent Chance To Live
During the assessment, the medical team found that Ellie was suffering from several life-threatening conditions. The most severe was his infected umbilical hernia. In the wild, an elephant with this ailment dies 99 percent of the time. The reserve faced severe pressure but they weren't ready to let Ellie become another statistic.
Ellie’s team began to develop a care plan that would ensure he would live to run with his herd again one day. Still, at this point, they knew to rehab the elephant wasn’t going to be easy. They had grown attached to Ellie and feared for his future.
Ellie Was Given 24-Hour Care To Ensure His Survival
The dedicated care team at the private reservation assigned Ellie a 24-hour care team, ready to help at a moment's notice in case anything went wrong. They were motivated and determined to save Ellie’s life and kept a close eye on him as a result.
As the reserve cared for Ellie, they discovered his health was worse than imagined. One issue even arose after they took him in. This problem was serious and took all the creativity the team had to find a solution for.
Ellie Became Intolerant To Milk
Nothing is more important to the health of baby than milk. Filled with nutrients and fat, it gives growing babies everything the need to become strong and healthy. Shortly after the medical team began to care for Ellie, the elephant became intolerant to milk, creating a big problem.
At first, the team hoped Ellie was just rejecting the milk they had on-site. They ordered milk from various locations, including Zimbabwe and Kenya, hoping it would make a difference. It didn't. No matter what kind of milk the team tried, Ellie rejected it.
Coconut Oil Saves The Day
Desperate for a solution, the team turned to coconut oil mixed with protein and minerals for Ellie to drink. Miraculously, and to everyone's relief, the baby elephant took to his new formula and began growing stronger by the day.
With Ellie eating and getting his energy back, the team felt the extreme pressure of the rehab process begin to ease. They had just found a solution to an impossible problem and felt prepared for anything else the world would throw at them.
Even Elephants Get Depressed
According to one of Ellie's caretakers, the elephant "was particularly weak and particularly ill." Ellie was getting healthy, but his happiness was non-existent. He wasn’t showing interest in doing anything and was very lethargic. The rescue team knew something was wrong and needed to come up with a solution fast.
Ellie may have been given a new life, but was alone and depressed. He was withdrawn and the companionship of humans wasn’t cheering him up. Ellie, it turned out, was more than just depressed, he was dealing with severe emotional trauma.
Ellie Couldn't Come To Terms With Losing His Family
Ellie had a particularly rough start to his life. Growing up in the animal kingdom isn't easy, and being abandoned by his herd for being sick was devastating for him. Even though his health was improving, the rehab team could see his emotional state was declining.
The team knew they needed to introduce Ellie to new friends. Socializing is critically important to elephants in the animal kingdom, and up to this point in his life, Ellie’s only friends were human.
So Many Animals To Make Friends With, Which Kind Would Ellie Choose?
The Thula Thula Private Game Reserve was home to many different kinds of animals. Some, like leopards and crocodiles, wouldn't have been appropriate for Ellie to befriend, while others, like the zebra or buffalo, might accept the infant as one of their own.
As the team introduced Ellie to the different animals at the reserve, though, he didn't show much interest in any of them. This couldn't have been encouraging for the team, but hope wasn't lost. There was still one more animal for Ellie to meet, and his name was Duma.
Duma Is A Good Boy
With Ellie rejecting the reserve's other wild residents, the team introduced her to Duma, an adult male German shepherd. Duma lived on the grounds and used to be a police dog. On the reserve, he was free to wander where he wanted and make friends with whoever he wanted.
You might think because Duma worked for the police, he would be gruff and maybe even a loner. He was the exact opposite and well known at the reserve for his tender and caring demeanor with all the animals there.
Ellie and Duma Are a Match Made In Heaven
As soon as Ellie met Duma and they became friends, his attitude change. Ellie was happier and interested in playing again. As one the rehab team described it, "we introduced Duma and the elephant in the sandpile, and it immediately cheered the elephant up."
Over the next few weeks, Ellie became happy again. The relationship between him and Duma was growing stronger every day until they were practically inseparable. The rehab team at the reserve couldn't have found Ellie a better companion if they wanted to.
Ellie Makes A Surprising Recovery But Our Story Doesn't End Here
With Ellie now best friends with Duma, it looked like the long journey to his recovery and revival was coming to the end. The two animals were inseparable and Ellie's fatigue and depression both appeared to be gone. As for his physical setbacks, they were almost gone, too!
During the day, Ellie and Duma could be found playing together in dirt mounds and taking nap breaks under nearby trees. Some at the reserve even said it looked like Ellie would smile when they saw the furry friend approaching. Friendship isn’t the only positive benefit Duma provided.
Duma Becomes Ellie's Dad
Duma took his role as Ellie's friend seriously. He took it so seriously that after weeks of playing together, he took on more of a paternal role in their friendship. Thula Thula employees said it became hard to keep Duma away from Ellie.
Not only was he always around Ellie, he taught him how to play and worked as her personal protector. Wherever Ellie went, Duma followed. He would provide the young elephant comforting nuzzles and bring him sticks to play with. Within months it appeared Ellie had made a full recovery, and the team was going to have a tough decision about his future.
Videos Of The Friends Capture The World's Attention
The rehab team couldn't believe their eyes with Ellie’s recovery and friendship with Duma, saying "against all odds, this little elephant is still with us." For the first time since his arrival, Ellie was happy and playful. The team began to take videos of the best friends and posting them online.
In no time, Ellie and Duma became an internet sensation. As happy as this made the rehab team, it also brought up a new problem. With Ellie’s health in good standing, they needed to consider reintroducing to the herd.
Ellie's Release Back Into The Wild Becomes Questionable
The original plan with Ellie was to release him back into the herd when he recovered. After seeing the friendship he formed with Duma and how profoundly it had affected him, that future was suddenly put into question. Another option was to place Ellie with a herd living on the reserve.
Both futures for Ellie meant breaking his bond with Duma. Thula Thula couldn't keep the elephant in the rehab center forever, but just like when Ellie showed up sick and depressed, the decision of what to do next was far more complicated then it appeared.
Thanks To Duma, The Team Didn't Have To Make A Decision Right Away
The rehab team didn't know what to do, but luckily they didn’t need to make a decision right away. Obviously they couldn’t keep Ellie forever, but they could take as much time as they needed to contemplate his best future. The happy bond with Duma ensured that.
Everything seemed to be working in Thula Thula’s favor. They had overcome every obstacle they faced and had successfully nursed Ellie back to health with the help of Duma the dog.