Mulisani on the Move!
The orphan elephant Mulisani – named in honour of our founder David Shepherd – has made a huge step on his road to rehabilitation in Zambia this week. The three-year-old was successfully translocated from Game Rangers International’s (GRI) Elephant Nursery in Lusaka to the Release Facility in Kafue National Park.
Mulisani was rescued in October last year, shortly after David’s death and he was named in memory of a conservation giant. Mulisani means ‘shepherd’ in the Zambian language of Lozi.
The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation originally set up the Elephant Orphanage Project and continues to support it through the funding of GRI.
After a battle for survival when he was first rescued, Mulisani soon grew strong and was outgrowing the nursery, both physically and socially. As the oldest orphan of the herd, and the only male, he had started to behave aggressively towards the younger female orphans, rarely displaying any submissive behaviours, which are so important for his future release success and integration into a wild herd. So it was agreed that is was time to introduce Mulisani to a larger herd where he will be surrounded by older, more experienced elephants who he can learn from.
At the weekend, Mulisani was loaded into the translocation vehicle, with temptation from his milk bottle, before setting off on the long 10-hour journey to his new home. The Head Keeper from the Elephant Nursery, Oliver, travelled with him to check up on the elephant along the way.
On arrival at his new home, Mulisani was guided into his stable by Oliver, where he safely stayed overnight. The following morning, the little orphan was introduced to his new elephant family – the release herd consisting of 11 elephants.
“Many interesting behaviours were observed and many interactions were exchanged as the herd members investigated the newcomer. They were intrigued, reaching their trunks through the fence that separated them during this introduction,” said GRI’s Lauren Cawley.
“The matriarch of the herd, Chamilandu, affectionately greeted him. She was evidently streaming from her temporal glands, indicating her heightened emotion. She warmly welcomed Mulisani, frequently placing her protective trunk over his back, offering him the comfort he needed during this time of uncertainty.”
Although Mulisani responded well to such interactions, he repeatedly searched for Oliver and headed towards him. During this overwhelming time, he found comfort in Oliver, who is staying at the Release Facility for a few days whilst he settles in.
Mulisani has been joining the daily bush walks with the rest of the herd, although he is lagging behind a little, partly due to the fact that he isn’t used to walking such long distances and partly because he wants to stay close to the keepers. And he stands out a mile, as he is covered in the red dust from Lusaka!
Mulisani’s behaviour will be closely monitored over the coming days for any signs of stress but these initial interactions and behaviours suggest he will settle into his new home just fine.
This is an exciting step forward for David’s namesake elephant and all of us at the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation look forward to following his continuing rehabilitation journey, with the hope that one day Mulisani will return to the wild.