A tragic end to the sizeable story of a tiny elephant
It was hard not to fall in love with Matizye, the tiny, five-month-old charismatic baby elephant orphan who captured the hearts of so many around the world.
It is with great sadness that we pass on the heartbreaking news of her sudden death.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, 18th March 2018, keepers at the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation funded Game Rangers International Elephant Orphanage Project (GRI EOP), noticed a rapid change in Matizye’s behaviour. Despite contacting the management team, who were onsite and able to attend to Matizye immediately, just ten minutes later, she tragically passed away with no other apparent or obvious symptoms.
Little Matizye was very young, we think around two months old when she was rescued. She was in desperate need of care having been orphaned at such a vulnerable age, and was brought to GRI EOP’s Lilayi Elephant Nursery in Zambia where she received dedicated, round-the-clock care. Since her rescue in December 2017 (read more about Matizye’s rescue), Matizye’s condition appeared to be improving daily, both physically and psychologically. Her drastic and rapid decline came as a huge shock and has devastated everybody involved in caring for her.
Matizye had been in the GRI EOP’s care for the past 3 months, during which time she touched the hearts of her keepers and her surrogate elephant orphan family; none more so than older orphaned elephant Kasewe, who showed her maternal instincts towards Matizye by constantly looking out for her and protecting the vulnerable little elephant from more boisterous play.
Matizye captivated many supporters on social media who saw her endearing mattress routine, her adorable perseverance in learning how to control her trunk, her extra feeding times and her basking in the delights of a mud bath on a hot and sunny day.
Just three days prior to her death, Dr Jackson Katampi, from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife had completed a routine health check on Matizye, confirming that she appeared healthy. However, on the evening of Saturday 17th March, Matizye started to show signs of discomfort, with a rising temperature and a mixture of fatigue and restlessness. The team at GRI EOP’s Lilayi Nursery monitored her for potential illnesses whilst she was in the safety of her stable. She was treated accordingly and her temperature stabilised, at which point she became calm and lay down to sleep. Her keepers closely observed her whilst she slept, regularly recording her temperature and breathing activity for several hours. Alerted by a sudden change in her condition, help came immediately but tragically nothing could be done to save the little orphan.
Following her death, Dr Jackson conducted Matizye’s post mortem, from which we are currently awaiting the results. It is essential to understand what happened to her as this may help with diagnostics and treatment of other orphans in the future. At such a sad time for the team in Zambia, their commendable drive to learn and help protect future orphans is testament to their committed care and is helping them move forward from this sad event.
This is a tough time for the team in Zambia, especially for her keepers. These dedicated individuals, who were with her day and night, protecting and caring for her needs, can find peace in the fact that she received the highest standards of care throughout her short time at the Nursery.
Matizye will be sorely missed.
Thank you to everybody who supported Matizye. If you would like to further the care of Matizye’s fellow orphan elephants at the Nursery and to support the work and unwavering devotion of her keepers, please donate here to her appeal.