Race Against Time to Save Abandoned Baby Elephant
An emergency elephant alert saw our project partners in Zambia spring into action, to rescue a tiny calf that had been found wandering alone in a farmer’s field.
The DSWF funded Game Rangers International (GRI) team carried out their most rapid orphan rescue yet, transporting the elephant from Livingstone to the safety of the nursery stables in Lusaka, nearly 500km away, in just 12 hours.
The Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife responded initially to the elephant call-out and quickly captured the six-month-old calf on the ground.
The frightened little elephant was taken to the nearby ‘Elephant Café’ for stabilization, while the DSWF funded GRI ‘Elephant Orphanage Project’ (EOP) Team were busy securing a plane, organising a purpose built elephant crate and other logistics for her transportation back to the elephant nursery in Lilayi.
“We raced against the clock to ensure the calf could be moved to the nursery within the same day, which we successfully achieved,” said GRI EOP’s Lauren Cawley. “Massive thanks to Royal Air Charters for their rapid response and donating the plane for her travel.”
After a two-hour flight to Lusaka and an hour long road trip to the Elephant Nursery, the team offloaded the orphan and guided her into a freshly prepared stable. She was fed water, specialised milk formula, as well as fresh browse and was kept warm with blankets and fresh hay inside her stable. Keepers stayed by her side through the night to carefully monitor her condition and behaviour.
It’s believed the little elephant may have been left behind by her herd, which was spotted earlier in the week passing through a field by staff at Livingstone Fish Farm.
“She was assumed to have been away from her mother for a very short period of time at point of rescue but experience tells us that it may well have been longer than first thought,” said Lauren.
“She has been regularly fed a specialised milk formula with electrolytes to replace the nutrient rich milk she is missing from her mother and has spent time getting to know her keepers. We will ensure her strength is fully recovered before she walks with the other orphans.”
The new arrival is currently known as number 43 – she is the 43rd elephant helped by GRI EOP in the last 10 years. While initial signs are good, the orphan won’t be officially named until keepers are confident she will survive.
“She has been doing well and slowly getting used to her diet changes. She has met all the other elephants and spends a part of every day with them – she is drinking everything she is offered and browsing a little and just gaining confidence every day,” said Lauren. “She’s not out of the woods yet but every day we try!”
And the little orphan has a lot to learn – she’s been trying to master her trunk to feed herself, which is trickier than it might first appear!
DSWF established the Elephant Orphanage Project in 2008 with the aim of rescuing, rehabilitating and returning to the wild orphaned elephants like number 43 – which are so often the innocent victims of wildlife crime. The project, now run by GRI with support from DSWF, gives rescued elephants the possibility of one day living in a wild herd.
Once weaned, the young elephants are relocated to GRI EOP’s release facility at Kafue National Park, one of the largest parks in Africa, where they begin the re-wilding process, taking long and regular walks into the bush and browsing in the safety of the outer boma. It is here that they come into contact with the wild herds that they will one day hopefully rejoin.
More than 30,000 African elephants are illegally killed each year for their tusks and the orphans sadly keep coming.
DSWF’s aim is to provide safety not simply for the young elephants to grow and gain strength but to ensure that the wild spaces they return to are protected.
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