Home News Elephants World Elephant Day: The Journey is Worth the Wait  

World Elephant Day: The Journey is Worth the Wait  

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To celebrate #WorldElephantDay, we’re putting the spotlight on our project partners, Game Rangers International (GRI), and the brilliant success of the Wildlife Programme in Zambia (previously known as the Elephant Orphanage Project).  

The programme was the first-ever elephant orphanage in southern Africa, established in 2008 with critical funding from David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF). David Shepherd, our founder and a dedicated conservationist and renowned wildlife artist, was a firm believer in the project’s mission and had an affinity to Zambia.  

The goal with every elephant rescued by our project partners, is to return them to the wild where they belong. However, this is a very lengthy process as we work to rehabilitate, recover, and restore broken hearts and injured bodies. Thanks to the dedication and commitment of our team on the ground, we can use a research-led approach – enabling critical data collection on the orphans, from the point of rescue through to their release.  

Forty-nine orphaned elephants have been supported by the programme so far.  

Our fantastic keepers and team at GRI know a thing or two about nurturing and rehabilitating these young orphans back to the wild.   

Mataya Takes Big Strides Towards Recovery 

At the start of the year, we shared Mataya’s touching rescue story and have been following his recovery since, from joining the orphan herd for his first walking in the bush to engaging in social play with the other orphans.   

Mataya has recovered well from the trauma and physical injury he sustained during the human-wildlife-conflict incident in Mataya Unga Village, in lower Zambezi National Park, at the start of the year. We’ve been thrilled to see Mataya’s bold personality and confidence develop over the months, thanks to the dedication and encouragement from the keepers.   

At six months old, Mataya is at the “peak’ age of playfulness in his development (the time he spends playing will reduce by more than half the closer he gets to 12 months old). But for now, he will seek out any opportunity to engage in this vital behaviour.  

We’re delighted to share this video of little Mataya joining the herd at a lunchtime viewing – the first time since his arrival at the Elephant Nursery in Lusaka National Park.   

“We are happy that Mataya has joined the herd at the viewing hide; his interaction with older orphans is very important for his growth and development throughout his time at the nursery.”  

 Senior Keeper, Aaron.  

The Fight for Survival Doesn’t End 

The Wildlife Programme’s success story is remarkable, although as a conservation charity, we face constant challenges such as the changing climate, and Zambia’s elephants continue to face persecution through illegal ivory poaching and human-elephant conflict. These threats are ever-increasing as wildlife and communities fight for resources and are increasingly brought into contact.   

The young and vulnerable orphaned calves left behind are the real victims of wildlife crime and conflict. Without a mother’s protection and nutrition, they would not survive for long. 

Please help us to continue supporting orphan elephants, like Mataya, by adopting an elephant here or donating here

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Andrew White
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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