Most people are familiar with German Shepherd Dogs’ success as working dogs, usually in military or police roles, like patrolling, sniffing out explosive devices, and capturing suspects. But the breed’s extreme intelligence and strong drive also is suitable for lesser-known careers in conservation.
Take, for example, Duma. As a puppy, Duma was trained to work with the Rhino Project in South Africa, helping track orphaned rhino calves after their mothers were killed by poachers. “Duma went everywhere with me and worked alongside me with the rhino calves,” his original handler Karen Trendler wrote on Facebook. “He turned out to be exceptional at reading the rhinos' behavior, mood, and condition (he knew before we did that the rhino was going to charge).”
Now, three years later, Duma has been given a new and important assignment. The Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage in South Africa, which typically cares for rhinos affected by poaching, has taken in a baby elephant that was abandoned by his herd. The elephant, nicknamed Ellie, was suffering from a slew of medical problems, including a life-threatening umbilical hernia that had become infected and a severe milk allergy.
The staff at the orphanage nursed Ellie back to health but were concerned about getting her the interaction that social animals like elephants desperately need. The smart, sweet-natured Duma was a natural choice. The two were introduced and quickly bonded. In the last several months, they’ve formed a strong friendship that’s benefited Ellie greatly. “It had a massive impact on the elephant in that he suddenly started getting a little interest in life again,” Trendler said in a video below.
According to Trendler, Ellie will eventually be integrated with an existing herd or paired with other orphaned elephants.
See Duma and Ellie interact here: