Elephant Orphans Adopted by Wild Herd!

In an amazing story of elephant rehabilitation, we’re excited to bring you the news that elephant orphans Kakaro and Njanji have been ‘adopted’ by a wild herd in Zambia!

Orphan elephants Kakaro and Njanji at the DSWF funded release facility Zambia

Back in June, we followed the tale of the two little elephants, which had travelled from the DSWF funded Game Rangers International Elephant Orphanage Project in Lusaka, to begin a whole new life in Kafue National Park.

Their translocation journey was an exhausting one – ten hours and 350km cross-country – until their safe arrival at the Phoenix Release Centre, where Kakaro and Njanji were introduced to the 12 other orphans living there.

This marked the start of what was expected to be a long road and gradual release back into the wild for the two little orphans, whose mothers were brutally killed by poachers. However, the elephants had other ideas!

The matriarch of the Phoenix Release Centre herd, Chamilandu, was often seen protecting the little ones from the other bulls, in an attempt to make them feel at home.

After only a couple of weeks, it was a huge surprise to see both Njanji and Kakaro follow Chamilandu out on an excursion with a local wild elephant herd. In a very unexpected twist, the two little elephant explorers then decided not to return with Chamilandu – instead deciding to stay with the wild herd.

“Their decision to choose a wild herd over the release herd is a very exciting development and one which we have not experienced before as most of the elephants have not felt ready to leave the release herd and facility until they were much older,” said GRI’s Rachael Murton.

“But their early departure means they are now living in the wild where they belong and are forming relationships with wild elephants who will teach them the skills they need to survive.”

However, the exploits of Kakaro and Njanji did raise concerns and GRI immediately began efforts to try to monitor the orphans. Two days later the elephants were seen close to the Phoenix camp, with a small herd, led by a tusk-less female, known to GRI staff.

The orphans’ keeper Oscar, who had hand raised them for the past two years, was part of the team and both Njanji and Kakaro came into close range of him, their trunks up smelling him in recognition – before they turned away to get closer to the tusk-less matriarch. She in turn became protective of them and chased the team away.

Efforts are now continuing to locate and remotely monitor the orphans’ on-going progression and development, to ensure Kakaro and Njanji are safe and healthy and have remained with the wild herd.

The GRI Elephant Orphanage Project is supported with funds from DSWF. Our CEO Karen Botha, who travelled to Zambia to witness the initial translocation of the orphans, said DSWF was ‘very proud to fund this truly inspirational project’.

Some 55 elephants die at the hands of poachers in Africa alone EVERY day and sadly orphan elephants like Kakaro and Njanji are all too common.

Together we can fight illegal wildlife crime and protect vulnerable elephants – please help us continue our vital work by donating here. Every penny counts!

Wild elephant herd in Zambia