Home News Chipembele learns to trust at Lilayi Elephant Nursery

Chipembele learns to trust at Lilayi Elephant Nursery

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Last week, DSWF supported the rescue of a young elephant named Chipembele after his mother was fatally wounded by poachers. For the full story, click here.

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. GRI Keeper, Elvis, has been looking after Chipembele, who is gradually starting to trust him and follow him around in eager anticipation of every bottle of milk. 

Elephant calves are usually weaned off milk by their mothers between two and three years old. However, the height of Zambia’s dry season is not the best time for weaning and Chipembele has needed specialised nutrition to survive. 

Once he had settled and was drinking well, plans were made to transport him to the GRI Elephant Nursery in Lusaka where he would be united with other elephants, and which will form a crucial part of his rehabilitation back into the wild. Due to his size and the distance to the Nursery, the safest method of transport was by road. In a support convoy of two vehicles and a specially modified trailer, Chipembele made his journey to Lusaka. Given the trust he had started to develop in Elvis, he amazingly and willingly followed him into the trailer, lured by milk.

Once inside, Dr Sichande from Conservation South Luangwa (CSL) administered a mild sedative to help calm him for the long journey ahead. He travelled incredibly well, drinking fluids offered every two hours, and eating fresh browse cut along the way. He also, importantly, laid down to rest in the hay which was essential on this 16-hour road trip! 

Upon arrival at the Nursery, ‘Chip’ willingly walked out of the trailer and was ushered into his newly waiting stable, full of fresh browse and hay to sleep in, but most crucially with elephant neighbours to reassure him in his new surroundings. 

Chipembele slept very well after arrival and continued to drink all feeds offered. His first day was ‘bed rest’ in order to recover from his journey and regain his strength, but after a couple of days he was allowed out of his stable to stretch his legs when the other elephants were out in the bush. In these early days, before he has bonded with the Keepers who will become his surrogate family, it is not yet safe to let him walk amongst the other elephants in the bush. At two years old and weighing 300+kg, he could seriously injure a Keeper if he feels scared or confused, and it is critical that he first trusts the Keepers and seeks comfort in them. Given his current progress, it will not likely be long before he is fully integrated with the herd and walking safely amongst them, as he takes his first few steps towards a life back in the wild – a life that was so tragically and cruelly ripped from him to satisfy a demand for ivory. 

GRI works closely with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) to empower rangers on the frontline of conservation and combat the wildlife crime that is responsible for creating elephant orphans like Chip. 

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

Rescue was conducted with thanks to our partners in conservation Lion Camp, the Department of National Parks & Wildlife, Conservation South Luangwa, Proflight Zambia, IFAW, Olsen Animal Trust and Elephant Cooperation.

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