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Mataya’s Rescue

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Another young elephant becomes the tragic victim of Human Elephant Conflict!  

But our ground-based conservation partners were on hand to help. A few days ago, our team found a tinny two month old elephant, Mataya, alone on the banks of the Zambezi River.

Image credit: Game Rangers International

His herd had been chased away from crop fields in the remote village of Mataya Unga alongside the Zambezi River. As with so many rural communities, subsistence living and the growing of crops is vital for their existence. However, the growing of maize attracts elephants, for whom it is such a favoured food, and often leads to Human-Elephant conflict.

On Saturday, a large herd of elephants crossed the river from Zimbabwe and moved into Mataya Unga where they began to crop raid, devastating the maize fields that are the life source of the community. The farmers and community members response was to chase the elephants away, firing guns, throwing rocks and making noise to scare them off. In the commotion a tiny young elephant became separated from his mother and in the aftermath of the conflict he was found alone. Enraged by the loss of so many crops one community member tried to kill the young calf for meat, attacking him with a machete. 

However other members of the community bravely rescued the calf and secured him in a safe location until the Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) rapid response unit (located over an hour away) arrived on the scene. DNPW officers understood the trauma experienced by both people and elephants and acted quickly to transport the young calf to Lusaka, whilst alerting our team.  

When Mataya arrived at the Elephant Nursery, he was so weak that he could not stand, his blood glucose levels were dangerously low, and he had sustained machete wounds during the conflict. He was traumatised, stressed and completed exhausted. It was a nerve-wracking night for the team as they attempted to ensure he consumed the life-saving milk he so desperately needed, balancing this with the need to rehydrate and rest.  

Image credit: Game Rangers International

Thankfully after 12 hours of intensive support Mataya managed to stand up and started showing a little more interest in his keeper and milk. At around two months old he is incredibly vulnerable and needs constant physical contact, specialist nutrition and veterinary support to survive. 

He has been named ‘Mataya’ after the village where he was found. The name means, ‘to throw Meali Meal’ which is the community’s staple maize-based food source. 

These first few days after Mataya’s rescue are the most critical as he is very vulnerable to exhaustion and can’t be left alone, as he needs the consistent comfort through physical contact that his mother would have provided. By supporting his emotional needs, his appetite will increase which is vital for his survival.  

You can help us to save Mataya by donating here: Donate – David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation  

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