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Chipembele gets to know his new surrogate family

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Last month, DSWF supported the rescue of a young elephant named Chipembele after his mother was fatally wounded by poachers. The two-year-old calf is currently being rehabilitated by our ground-based partner, Game Rangers International (GRI), with the hope for a future release back into the wild.

Chipembele (Chip), initially spent time getting to know the nursery herd from within his stable. This reduced stress by giving him the control to choose when to interact with the other elephants. He had friendly trunk interactions over the stable doors with Lani and Olimba.

Mbila and Zongo also showed interest in him and would fit their smaller trunks under the stable door to touch him or just reach over the top to smell him. 

Chip spent 48 hours within his stable, this gave the Wildlife Rescue Rangers an opportunity to build a relationship with him by bonding over milk bottle feeds and offering browse throughout the day and night. They were also able to treat his wounds whilst they bottle fed him, which are all healing well. 

After this time of close attention by the Wildlife Rescue Rangers, monitoring his food intake and health status, he was deemed fit enough to be outside his stable during the day. This allowed him to become familiar with his new environment without the added pressure of meeting the excited herd just yet!

After three days he was ready to freely interact with the other orphans during their usual lunch time period in the boma. Food is often the primary focus for elephants and so, most of the orphans were initially more focused on feeding than Chip – however, Lani did follow him around! After a week and a half of following this routine (time spent with the keepers and interacting with the herd in the boma) Chip was ready for the next step of his rehabilitation which involved leaving the boma on an afternoon walk with his new family. Chip was hesitant to follow at first and kept returning to the boma. However, with some encouragement from the keepers and the herd, he was soon on his way with his surrogate siblings!

The orphans have a milk bottle on their afternoon walk in the bush. This causes much excitement amongst them, and they run to their keepers. Chip, being uncertain about what was going on, followed after them but ran past the keeper with his bottle! He soon realised and found his bottle, drinking it down in no time – however, not quite at the speed of the other orphans yet, especially Olimba! 

Although he has passed these early milestones, Chip still demonstrates nervous behaviours and frequently seeks comfort from his Wildlife Rescue Rangers, especially when he gets a fright from other wildlife such as birds and antelope. They are his mother figures now, and they will continue to guide him while settling into his new family and home.

GRI’s Elephant Orphanage Project (GRI-EOP) in Kafue National Park, rescues orphaned baby elephants in the wild and rehabilitates them for release back into wild herds.

Please help us continue funding this vital conservation work by donating today: https://davidshepherd.org/donations/donate-elephants/   

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