Elephant orphan thriving at nursery

Muchi browses at the front, with Nkala right behind him. Musolole is to the far right and Zambezi is in the back (both of them have since been moved to the Kafue Release Center).

The small orphan who was emaciated, stressed and covered in warts when rescued has put on weight and seems more at ease with life at the nursery of the Zambia Elephant Orphanage Project every day.

Muchi, as he is affectionately known, is grazing and browsing normally and can finish drinking his milk bottle within a few seconds.

Immediately after his rescue from an island in the Lower Zambezi River on 11 January, he gave us a worrying start.

We had to support him throughout his second night with IV fluids and intensive care. Due to stress sores inside his mouth, he was unable to suckle from a bottle and found it difficult to eat. To assist him, the keepers helped him drink fluids from a bucket and selected the softest grass for him to eat.

Within a week of good nutrition and a safe and comfortable home, Muchi began to settle down and recover.

READ: Rescued calf admitted to Zambia Elephant Orphanage Project

Whilst Muchi has settled in well to the herd, he still needs to work on his relationship with three-year-old Nkala, who was - until Muchi’s arrival - the “baby” of the herd. Nkala was quite a bully towards Muchi and jealous of his interactions with the older elephants.

From left: Nkala, Musolole, MuchiThe older two elephants, Zambezi and Musolole, accepted Muchi as part of their herd. Being boisterous young males, however, we had not witnessed a significant amount of affection, which Muchi was desperately seeking after the trauma of losing his family.

This scenario emphasises the importance of the keepers in the role of surrogate mother to these young victims of wildlife crime. Especially since there is no female in this young herd, Muchi has been reliant on the keepers to comfort him and make him feel accepted.

With their support he will, like the other orphans at EOP, overcome the loss of his natural family and enjoy a new freedom amongst his surrogate one and eventually a second chance for a life in the wild.

His confidence is clearly growing, as he is often the first to lead the morning walk into the bush. His relationship with Nkala is also improving gradually, especially with the move of the other older elephants eliminating the jealousy issue.

Physically, Muchi looks better all the time.

His skin, which was very thin on arrival, is starting to get stronger, and his tusks have also begun to show through his gums. The appearance of his tiny tusks and consistent weight gain since arrival, coupled with his social nature, give us confidence that he is developing and progressing normally.

We look forward to reporting more of his successes in the future.


The GRI-Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) operates in partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW).

Help save orphaned elephants like Muchichili and help us rescue and care for other animals around the world.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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