Eliot, a baby African elephant, was rescued on Christmas Day. He was just three days old, and the only member of his family to survive a lightning strike.

Elephants are known for their incredible emotional intelligence—it has been recorded that they are one of the world’s most empathetic animals—so it can safely be assumed that, following the trauma, Eliot would have been feeling terrified, vulnerable, and entirely alone.

Rescue came in the form of the Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery, a sanctuary outside the country’s capital of Harare, where Eliot was taken under the wing of two friendly older elephants, Beatrix and Kadiki.

Beatrix and Kadiki both knew what it was like to be orphaned at such a young age.

The older elephants helped raise Eliot’s spirits after his parents were killed by lightning.

Three-year-old Kadiki had been attacked by a lion when she was only a day old, suffering deep claw wounds to her trunk and severe damage to her tail, which ultimately had to be amputated.

Two years later, Beatrix, who is now one, arrived at the sanctuary. She had been found trapped in a gully, and arrived agitated, dehydrated, and dangerously close to dying from heatstroke. Kadiki helped save her life, gently wrapping her trunk around Beatrix the day they met to help calm her down. Kadiki quickly became like a mother to Beatrix.

When Eliot arrived, both Beatrix and Kadiki stepped in to help him, and the trio bonded over their similar early traumas. Eliot quickly became a part of their little family, playing, sleeping, and cuddling together.

The new playmates rest together.

When all three elephants are strong enough, the sanctuary plans to move them to a reserve near Victoria Falls, where they will not only be safe from poachers but also able to integrate into a wild-elephant herd.

They say elephants never forget, but Eliot, Kadiki, and Beatrix have all proved that we can move on from even the worst experiences with the help of love and empathy.

You can donate to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, a global nonprofit helping animals and people, here

Clara Molot is an Associate Editor for AIR MAIL