Batoka returns to the Kafue Release Facility

Batoka’s return to the boma shows that even though the orphans are growing up outside of a traditional herd they are still effectively learning how to be wild elephants. © GRIJust after sharing the news that Batoka (7yrs, 10mos) separated from two of the other release-phase orphans, Chodoba (10yrs, 10mos) and Kafue (6yrs, 7mos), we had another surprising turn of events when Batoka appeared back on camp.

A lone bull elephant was spotted not far from the elephant boma mid-morning. The pre-release orphans had long since left for their morning walk and were some kilometres away from camp. When keepers approached closer they confirmed it was Batoka. He was clearly searching for his herd members that he had been so long without (over 2 months).

He was repeatedly rumbling, head held up high with his ears out, listening intently in the surrounding environment as to any clues of where the other orphans may be.

When he found no responses near camp he crossed the Nkala River and headed off in the wrong direction in search of the orphans. Even though Batoka had been away for a while the orphans’ daily routine is deeply ingrained in his mind.

So he returned to the boma when the sun was at its highest, knowing he would find his surrogate family.

Chamilandu was the first to welcome Batoka back to the herd, they have had a strong bond ever since his rescue in 2009. They immediately greeted one another by putting their trunks in each other’s mouths. Chamilandu then scanned his body all over with her trunk, smelling him intently – perhaps smelling unfamiliar wild elephants on him?

Chamilandu and Batoka immediately greeted one another by putting their trunks in each other’s mouths. © GRIGood sparring friend and longtime play mate Tafika was the second elephant to greet him. After touching and smelling each other they immediately started playing and pushing each other around. Batoka quickly dominated Tafika, and Tafika behaved submissively, showing respect towards his returning older sibling. It is likely that all the sparring they have been practicing for the last few years aided Batoka during his time in the wild.

Chamilandu then Tafika welcomed Batoka back to the herd. © GRIHe returned with a small wound on his back leg, which keepers recognised as a tusk injury, likely from the wild elephants he has encountered while away from Chodoba and Kafue. It’s a minor wound, so it appears Batoka gained some skills that must have served him well when he needed them. Batoka gives us encouragement that even though the orphans are growing up outside of a traditional herd they are still effectively learning how to be wild elephants.

--LO

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori
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Faye Cuevas, Esq.
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Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
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James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
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Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
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Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy