Lower Zambezi Rescue Brings New Addition to Lilayi Elephant Nursery

Monday 11 January, a team from GRI – Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) drove down to Lower Zambezi to rescue an abandoned and orphaned elephant calf, the latest addition to the orphan herd at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery (LEN) outside Lusaka. EOP’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned elephants back into the wild.

The lonely calf was first reported to EOP the previous Friday, when it was spotted alone on the little island of Hulungwe in the Zambezi River by staff at Muchichili Safari House.

EOP Senior Keeper Ivan, who was in the area conducting an “Orphaned Elephant Awareness Campaign” to build positive relationships with local communities and encourage prompt reporting of lone elephant calves, could respond immediately.

Thanks to the support from Kanyemba Lodge and Jacana Enterprises, Ivan was able to access the island, locate the elephant and determine that it was a milk dependant youngster.

Reports from local fishermen suggest the calf may have been on the island by himself for up to two weeks, and no herds had been seen on the island since Thursday.

Since his condition was relatively stable and the island a safe environment, EOP decided to monitor the calf for a couple more days to allow every opportunity for a natural reunion with his herd. Ivan was ably assisted by Francis

Ivan was able to access the island, locate the elephant and determine that it was a milk dependant youngster. Reports from local fishermen suggest the calf may have been on the island by himself for up to two weeks, and no herds had been seen on the island since Thursday.

Since his condition was relatively stable and the island a safe environment, EOP decided to monitor the calf for a couple more days to allow every opportunity for a natural reunion with his herd. Ivan was ably assisted by Francis

Since his condition was relatively stable and the island a safe environment, EOP decided to monitor the calf for a couple more days to allow every opportunity for a natural reunion with his herd.

Ivan was ably assisted by Francis Muchinyu, a Wildlife Police Officer (WPO) from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW, formerly ZAWA) who has previously trained with EOP, in monitoring the calf.

On Monday morning, the EOP Rescue team assembled at Kanyemba Lodge, where they were generously assisted with boats, staff and equipment. As they arrived at the island, 30 minutes by boat from the lodge, the orphan was temporarily out of sight, and the island had to be searched thoroughly before the young male was found and sedated by the NNPW Vet Dr Innocent N’gombwe.

Then followed the labour intensive procedure of carrying the calf to the boats, which required the manpower of 10 people. By this time the calf was slightly overheated, but after being cooled down with water he quickly regained a normal temperature.

Back at Kanyemba Lodge, even more manpower was required to carry the calf, still sedated, from the boat and up to a Land Cruiser, kindly provided by Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) with the EOP rescue crate ready with dry grass and browse for the journey.

During the drive back to LEN, the calf was calm and standing up the whole time. When he was let into the LEN Boma he was understandably exhausted after the traumatic day.

The calf is approximately 1½ years old and despite being dehydrated and malnourished he still seems strong. A closer inspection revealed exposed ribs, thin and patchy skin and warts on his trunk; all common symptoms for elephants in distress and poor health.

He has been named Muchichili, which is the Goba word for Winterthorn, a tree that grows in abundance on the island where he was found.

When Muchichili saw the other three elephants at LEN, he was very excited and sought close contact with them.

The two older elephants took great interest in the new member of their herd.

During his first night at the Nursery, Muchichili allowed the keepers to handle him and it seems like he is desperate for company after his time alone on the island. Muchichili will receive a high level of care around the clock in order to recover physically and gain the necessary confidence to one day live back in the wild where he belongs.

This successful rescue operation would not have been possible without the invaluable help from many people and organisations. GRI – Elephant Orphanage Project would like to thank: Dr Innocent N’gombwe from Department for National Parks and Wildlife/ ZAWA for veterinary expertise; GRI – Wildlife Veterinary Project (WVP); Wildlife Police Officer’s Francis and Justin for monitoring the elephant for many days and for assisting with the rescue; Riccardo, Megan, Raphael, Thomson, Richard, Lazarus and many other staff from Kanyemba Lodge from invaluable support before, during and after the rescue; Ophen from Conservation Lower Zambezi for carefully driving the elephant (vehicle kindly provided by CLZ) and David from Muchichili Safari House for supporting Ivan to monitor the orphan via boat.

For more information, please contact Ulrica Hansson, Fundraising and PR Manager, Game Rangers International: Ulrica@gamerangersinternational.org, 0973560113, www.gamerangersinternational.org