Witnessing a baby elephant and a mature sheep fast asleep together might be as close as we’ll ever get to the metaphor of the lion and the lamb lying down together.
This is the story of Themba, a baby elephant, and Albert, a sheep, whose extraordinary relationship has astounded the caretakers at their nature reserve.
At just six months old, Themba faced the harsh reality of life in the wild when his mother tragically fell from a cliff.
Wildlife specialists at South Africa’s Sanbona wildlife reserve kept a close eye on the orphaned calf, hoping another elephant would take on the role of his mother.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, forcing animal hospital staff to step in to prevent the young elephant from starving.
Themba’s new home, the Shamwari Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Eastern Cape, is where he met his future pal, Albert.
Their initial meeting was less than promising, with the young elephant causing chaos by chasing Albert around their enclosure, which led the sheep to seek refuge in a shelter for half a day.
Despite their rocky start, Themba’s gentle curiosity quelled Albert’s anxieties. Lyndal Davies, a filmmaker and naturalist recording their journey, observed Themba approach the bars separating them, reaching out to touch and sniff Albert’s woolly back. This gentle interaction sparked Albert’s interest, and he soon began exploring the larger enclosure.
Themba and Albert have since become inseparable companions, spending their days exploring their enclosure and participating in eight-hour daily walks—essential for Themba’s growth. Notably, the pair can be seen catching a snooze atop a termite mound they had just knocked down.
Dr. Johan Joubert, the center’s wildlife director, praised Albert’s strength, stating that the robust sheep was better equipped for playtime with Themba than the human staff.
Albert has become a valuable part of Themba’s new herd, exhibiting behaviors more akin to an elephant than a sheep, including adopting Themba’s diet, even going so far as to learn how to eat thorny acacia bushes.
Despite the strength of their bond, the rehabilitation center’s primary goal remains to reintroduce Themba back into the wild, which may eventually mean parting ways for this endearing duo.
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