A busy time for the Elephant Orphanage Project as two new calves are rescued

It has been an incredibly busy time at Game Ranger International in Zambia, and especially at the Lilayi Nursery, where the team are caring for two new arrivals.

Two weeks ago, community members in Rufunsa GMA captured a young male elephant, who had been spotted alone during the previous 4 days. As the GRI Wildlife Rescue team rushed into action, he was safely secured with help from Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DPNW) officers from Luangwa Boma HQ. ⁣

Upon the team’s arrival, the feisty calf was loaded onto the Rescue Trailer – quite a challenge since he is approximately 2.5 years old and was charging everyone – a normal response for a wild elephant who doesn’t understand that we are trying to help.⁣


Once stable, the team began the long, slow journey back to the Elephant Nursery, checking on him every couple of hours, and providing drinking water, fresh browse and cooling splashes. Eight hours later, the team finally arrived at the Nursery, and the calf rushed out of the trailer and into the boma where he spent a few hours calming down before being lured into a stable with food. ⁣

After the rescue, the calf became much more sedate. His extremely emaciated condition was indicative of being without his mother for a long period of time, which may have compromised his internal organ system. Therefore, great care is being taken over his diet, with small steps to increase his intake whilst supporting his weakened state.⁣

Orphans of this age have been known to relapse up to two weeks post-rescue and there is no quick fix to reverse long-term starvation. He responded positively to his new family of Keepers who will play the significant role of mother as he overcomes his tragic loss.

After 11 days in care at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery, ‘Ludaka’, (named after the village he was found, to acknowledge his rescuers), calmed significantly since his arrival and was finally deemed strong enough to meet the Nursery Herd! Whilst still underweight, he has been stable for some time and the benefits of his interaction with the other elephants will be significant in his emotional recovery to the traumas he has experienced.

He spent a good hour getting to know the whole herd and in particular spent time with Lani and Kasewe, with some friendly trunk twining. As you can see from the clip below, as is typical of these young elephants, their highest priority remains food, so when this came between them Kasewe was more concerned with challenging him for browse than offering up comfort – but Ludaka held his own!

A second rescue…

It was less than a week since rescuing Ludaka when GRI and the DPNW in Zambia were called to respond to another tragic elephant orphaning.

Near South Luangwa National Park, DNPW Rangers came across this tragic scene: a mother elephant agonisingly caught around the neck in a poacher’s snare and bearing three fatal gun shot wounds. Standing under her chin, her 1-year-old female calf was clearly in terror after the traumatic experience of being shot at and running for their lives.

Tragically, her mother was too injured to be saved and had to be put out of her suffering. This traumatised little calf was darted with sedative and carefully moved with the help of Conservation South Luangwa and DNPW to Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust who have been a long-term first response for orphaned elephants and other wildlife in need.

The GRI Vet Unit were onsite to help stabilise the calf as they coordinate the logistics to relocate her to the Lilayi Elephant Nursery to reunite her with other elephants. This scenario is reminiscent of Chamilandu’s story and she suffered with nightmares for weeks after experiencing such brutality, so it is critical that this little calf gets into a secure environment with other elephants, attentive keepers and daily routine to help her overcome such horrors.

Having been with her mother up to the bitter end she is in good physical condition, but is incredibly traumatised, frightened and confused having lost her mother and her herd due to the incessant and insatiable demand for ivory.

Both of these calves will require round-the-clock care to help give them the best chance of recovering from the trauma they have suffered. Please consider donating to support the incredible work undertaken by the keepers and rangers at GRI.