Home News Olimba and Chip graduate to the Release Herd!

Olimba and Chip graduate to the Release Herd!

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

We’re delighted to confirm that elephant orphans Olimba Mtima and Chipembele have both arrived safely in Kafue National Park, ready to start a new chapter in their release journey.

Both rescued with the support of DSWF, this is a big step for these two very special elephants, and we’re excited to share with you some further updates from our ground-based conservation partners, Game Rangers International (GRI).

An early start

As dawn rose at the Lusaka Elephant Nursery, the team at GRI gathered eagerly to prepare for Olimba and Chip’s big day! The elephants were kept in their stables as the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) vet, Dr Chadzaantso, prepared sedatives and the Keepers prepared milk formula, to last long journey to Kafue National Park.

Olimba was the first to be let out of her stable and she stood patiently drinking her milk with Keeper Martin as Dr Chadzaantso carefully darted her with an anaesthetic. Within minutes she laid down. Her eyes were covered, vitals checked, and biological samples swiftly taken before the extended team had the mammoth task of lifting her! With a cargo net carefully slid under her 680kg body, she was lifted and carried inside the relocation truck.

Once inside, the anaesthetic was reversed and Olimba quickly came to and got to her feet. It was then Chip’s turn. He eagerly walked out of his stable where he was darted in the rump, resulting in him laying down as the drugs took effect quickly. Lifting Chip was comparatively much easier, being a year younger and with him weighing 485kg, but still required a team of 13 strong men to lift him safely inside the truck. The sedative seemed to affect him more deeply than Olimba as upon waking he drowsily nestled back into the hay bedding recovering slowly and only stood up once the truck got underway.

The journey begins!

The two ele’s pulled out of Lusaka National Park at 8am, munching on browse as they started the 400km journey to their new home.

Both orphans remained calm during their journey and presented no challenges – a welcome surprise after the previous translocation of Lani, who had fought the sedatives and the truck for the whole journey! 

Olimba and Chip were checked on every two hours with the Keepers offering milk, electrolytes, water and fresh browse. On the first three stops they showed no interested in fluids but continued to devour the browse. They were in separate compartments of the truck for safety, but with each stop, the team observed Olimba moving her trunk into the next compartment to touch Chip. A caring gesture which likely provided her with as much comfort as it did for Chip. On the fourth stop both elephants completed two bottles of milk each, then electrolytes and then water – really making up for their previous disinterest. 

A safe arrival

The orphan elephants arrived at the Release Facility after a smooth but long drive and were offloaded into the Boma stables. Chip was at the back of the truck so should have been the first to come out, but he was too nervous to take steps outside, even after lots of encouragement and comfort by his favourite Keeper Sunday. Instead, Olimba’s door was opened and the two elephants, although still a little hesitant, took their first steps out of the truck together, walking down the sandy ramp following their Keepers calls. 

Usually, Keepers would lead the elephants into a stable each so that they can get some good sleep and rest after such a long and tiring journey, but neither wanted to be separated. Olimba refused to go into a stable on her own and so did Chip! Eventually both elephants were led together into the largest stable where they can comfort each other throughout the night and recover, before meeting their new, bigger elephant herd in the morning.

You can help to support the next step in Olimba and Chip’s journey by donating today: https://davidshepherd.org/donations/donate/

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