Orphaned Albino Elephant Calf Swims With Adopted Family in Adorable Video

Footage shows the moment an orphaned albino elephant calf took a swim with her adopted family, who welcomed her into the herd after she was rescued from poachers.

In the video, the rare 2-year-old albino calf, Khanyisa, can be seen paddling with her adopted mother, Limpopo, and her big bull babysitter, Fishan, at the HERD elephant orphanage in South Africa.

HERD worker Tamlin Wightman told Newsweek that Khanyisa has been a "big water lover" ever since she arrived.

The calf was rescued in 2020 after park rangers at Kruger National Park found her trapped in a snare at 4 months old. The albino calf suffered severe injuries and her herd was nowhere to be found.

She was brought to the Care for Wild animal sanctuary to be stabilized and then brought to HERD to rehabilitate. It is situated in the province of Limpopo.

"We started reintegrating her into a new herd, the rescued elephants in our care who roam for most of their day in our reserve with dedicated human carers. Khanyisa spends all day with the herd now and has an adoptive mother and many allomothers [elephants who look after offspring not biologically their own] who help to raise her," Wightman said. "They have taught her to swim and protect her when she is in vulnerable positions—such as a waterhole."

Albino elephants are very rare and are known to suffer many complications in the wild. Because of their lack of pigments, their eyes and skin are particularly sensitive to the sun. They also have poor eyesight, which can sometimes disappear altogether. Often, they are rejected by their own family because of their unusual appearance.

After Khanyisa takes a swim, she will apply sand and mud shortly afterward, to better protect her skin, Wightman said.

Elephants develop strong bonds with each other and often form lifelong friendships but they do not always accept other non-family elephants into their herd. Integrating orphaned baby elephants into a new herd is essential, as they need companionship, as well as protection.

Herds have been known to reject orphaned elephants, particularly when there has been human intervention in caring for them.

Albino
The video shows the albino orphan swimming with her adopted carers HERD

However, this herd "really are unique" as they continuously accept orphans as one of their own and "give them a second chance at life," according to Wightman.

"Our human carers can only do so much," Wightman said. "We have a long-term strategy of rewilding, but for now the elephants are in the care of HERD and we rely on fundraising to help support them. Khanyisa is still milk dependent, at only 2 years of age, and sleeps at night in her nursery at the orphanage with two companion sheep, Lammie and Nungu, and a night shift carer."

"Her initiation into swimming started with very shallow dams, on short walks with Lammie the sheep and her human carers, including HERD Founder, Adine Roode. She is now fully equipped to handle the deeper dams in our reserve, with an allomother always close by for protection and support," Wightman said.