Elephant calves take a step towards the wild
Elephant calves Kavalamanja and Maramba, orphaned before their second birthdays, were a step closer to lives back in the wild this week when conservationists moved them to a unique rehabilitation facility in Zambia’s Kafue National Park.
All the elephants at the Kafue Release Facility of Game Rangers International (GRI) are orphaned – mostly due to their mothers being poached for ivory. They are the lucky ones, plucked from certain death they were taken to the Lilayi Elephant Nursery in Zambia’s capital Lusaka to receive round the clock care.
The Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) is a project of Game Rangers International, established by Sport Beattie, which works in close collaboration with the Zambia Wildlife Authority and is supported by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
“Kavalamanja and Maramba were both well under two years old when they were found and brought to the Lilayi Elephant Nursery. Kavalamanja’s mother had been killed by poachers, and Maramba was found wandering alone. If they hadn’t been rescued, they would have died due to malnutrition (calves are dependent on their mother’s milk until they are three years old) or due to predation,” says Rachael Murton, Project Manager of the EOP.
On Monday, after nearly three years of careful rehabilitation, the calves underwent a 10 hour journey to the Kafue Release Facility where GRI is slowly introducing a growing herd of young orphaned elephants to the wild life.
“In the coming months Kavalamanja and Maramba, now three-and-a-half and four years old will be weaned off milk, learn to freely socialise and forage throughout the night, three essential behaviours that are typical of wild elephants,” said Murton.
At Kafue the elephants roam in the National Park during the day returning to a fenced three hectare area at night, where they are safe from predators. This fence was recently funded by the IFAW and other donors.
“Up to 50,000 elephants are poached every year for their ivory, but one can never forget the individuals who are affected by this violent crime,” said Jason Bell, IFAW Director Southern Africa.
“Elephants are intelligent creatures with complex social structures. When those are disturbed by poaching and other events, the effect on their family groups is appalling. IFAW believes every elephant deserves a chance, and that’s why we support GRI and their work to protect and care for these amazing animals.”
In May IFAW supported a GRI training of rangers from the Zambian Wildlife Authority. The training boosted skills to aid in the fight against poaching.
In Zambia since 2013, IFAW has helped apprehend 86 poachers, convict 71, recover 27 lengths of ivory, recover 33 weapons of various calibres from homemade shotguns and blunderbusses to AK47s and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and confiscated more than 3,500 kilogrammes of bush meat.
IFAW supports GRI’s vision of taking a holistic view of conservation in which animal rescue and rehabilitation is taken into account alongside education and training, scientific research and law enforcement.
IFAW is grateful for financial support for our work with The Elephant Orphanage Project from our partners, The Animal Rescue Site and GreaterGood.org, which help secure funds to support IFAW’s animal rescue work around the world.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.