Update 28 January 2016 (via the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage Facebook Page): "It is with deep sadness and so many tears that we bring the devastating news that Ellie passed away shortly before midnight on Tuesday evening [January 26] after a very rapid deterioration - he had had enough and gave up the fight after a brave and tough five-and-half month battle against all

When a two-week old elephant, abandoned by his herd and suffering from a slew of ailments, arrived at South Africa’s Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage last year, it was doubtful that the tiny calf would survive. “Unless you have nursed an elephant calf and especially one that is a tiny, milk-dependent baby with a large umbilical abscess, naval/joint illness and septicaemia, you cannot even begin to imagine the intensity and challenge,” Karen Trendler, rehabilitation and crisis response expert at the orphanage, wrote on Facebook.

Thula Thula Elephant Bed 2015 01 14
Ellie having a nap. Image © Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage

However, despite the overwhelming odds, Trendler and a dedicated team battled intensively round the clock to give the young elephant (nicknamed ‘Ellie’) the best possible chance at survival. In the wild, elephants rely on strong social bonds, so without his herd, Ellie was having trouble adjusting. Just when things were looking particularly grim for the struggling youngster, staff at the orphanage introduced him to Duma - a former service and sniffer dog - and the two instantly formed an unlikely bond. “It immediately cheered the elephant up,” Trendler explains. “He suddenly started getting a little bit of interest in life again.”

Ellie is doing much better, thanks in no small part to the bond he shares with Duma, but there is still a long road ahead. Watch Ellie’s full story here: