In the afternoon of the 12th August (World Elephant Day), our ground-based partners, Game Rangers International (GRI), were called to the Rufunsa region where a tiny elephant calf was spotted wandering alone, crying for her mother. She was seen tagging along with a very large herd of elephants moving close to the Zambezi River, but the herd did not seem to respond to her calls, and her body condition evidenced she had not had access to her mother’s milk for a few days. She was finally left alone near Chikumbi Village where community members carefully restrained her and contacted GRI for support.
It was apparent that she had lost body condition with her hip bones prominent and cheek bones sunken, indicating dehydration and malnutrition – she must have lost her mother a few days earlier. Whilst it is hard to understand what caused the separation, we do know that mother elephants do not easily leave their young and there is a high level of poaching in this area.
Rufunsa has been an orphan elephant hotspot over the years due to its geography – here Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Zambia all meet, divided by the Zambezi (Zim-Zam) and Luangwa (Moz-Zam) Rivers. These country borders are very porous, and a lot of illegal activity takes place across them, including wildlife crime (poaching and trafficking). In addition, with the high level of human-wildlife conflict, this area has historically created more orphaned elephants than anywhere else in Zambia. Over the last 14 years, GRI has responded to 16 rescues in this area and has developed a strong presence here through essential law enforcement and community outreach with thanks to the incredible support of the Jackson Hole Community.
The four-month-old elephant calf was named ‘Chikumbi’ (Chi-koom-bi) after the community who cared for her so attentively. Her name means “rain cloud” in the local language of Nyanja, and here in Zambia the start of the rains is something hugely celebrated, offering hope and prosperity.
She was transported by road (an 8-hour drive) to the Elephant Nursery in Lusaka National Park where she will be given around-the-clock care and nursed back to full health. At such a young age she is very vulnerable but is showing great determination and has surprisingly mastered full use of her trunk already.
With the right nurture, nutrition, and a safe environment we hope to offer her another chance of a life back in the wild where she truly belongs, but this is just the start of a 15-year rehabilitation journey, and we can’t do it without your help!
If you can, please help us to give Chikumbi the support she needs by donating today: https://davidshepherd.org/donations/donate
Image credits: GRI