At nine years old, Chodoba (“lost and found” in the local language) is the oldest elephant cared for by the Game Rangers International (GRI) Elephant Orphanage Project in Zambia.  In 2007 he was found weak and alone, in South Luangwa National Park, and has since been cared for and rehabilitated by the dedicated team at the Kafue Release Facility. Now that he is nearing maturity, his instincts to wander from his surrogate family are growing and he is spending an increasing amount of time away from his orphan siblings and socializing with wild elephants in Kafue National Park. We expect the release process to happen gradually over a number of years. Maturing elephants will leave the security and comfort of the orphanage in their early teens, as they gain confidence and become large enough to defend themselves from predators.

In anticipation of his release, Chodoba has been fitted with a GPS tracking collar, which will enable the team to monitor his movements as he spends an increasing amount of time out of sight. The collar was funded by Pro Wildlife a German wildlife charity, and sourced from an Australian company specializing in bio information technologies: EcoKnowledge who are supporting GRI with three years of free satellite downloads.

Zambia Wildlife Authority vet Dr. David Squarre supervised the collar fitting, alongside Dr. Ian Parsons of Matobo Vet Centre and John Carter of GRI Kafue Research Project. After Chodoba was sedated the collar was expertly fitted and an antidote administered. He was back on his feet within 20 minutes. The collar didn’t seem to bother him and after a few explorations of the device with his trunk, he was avidly concentrating on filling his stomach once more!

This is a very exciting and encouraging development for the GRI Elephant Orphanage Project as we move towards our first orphan release. Thanks to our major donors the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation for their critical and ongoing support, as well as International Fund for Animal Welfare for both financial support and technical expertise.

With sincere thanks to pilot Tom Younger for donating the aircraft transport and to Zambia Wildlife Authority Vet Dr. David Squarre and Vet, Dr. Ian Parsons for veterinary assistance.

Article by: Game Rangers International