At the Lilayi Elephant Nursery in Zambia, we rescue and rehabilitate orphaned elephants.
When poachers kill female elephants, defenseless young calves can be left behind. Nursing calves, still dependent on their mothers cannot survive.
Left to fend for themselves, these orphans struggle without the milk they need to survive, and the ability to learn critical social skills from their mother. They tend to be more sickly and more stressed than their peers. And their psychological trauma can linger for decades.
Working with the GRI-Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP), a non-governmental organization based in Zambia, we helped develop and operate the IFAW-EOP.
It’s the first elephant orphanage in Southern Africa and the second on the continent focusing on returning elephants to the wild. Our teams take orphaned Zambian elephants out for regular walks, put them on a consistent feeding schedules, and watch over them while they sleep.
The GRI-Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) operates in partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), Olsen Animal Trust (OAT) and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) of Zambia.
Once the elephants are old enough to be weaned from milk, we transfer them to a special release facility in Kafue National Park.
With a thousand other wild elephants near the facility, we help the orphans integrate into a wild herd, gaining the herd’s protection and learning the social skills they will need to thrive.
As that happens, we use satellite collars to track their movements, ensure they integrate, and help them in case of emergency.
We also work with local communities near the park to develop innovative methods, like building fences, planting elephant-safe crops like chilis, and other tools that minimize the potential for animal-human conflicts.
The result is an environment where orphaned elephants have the skills they need to survive on their own and to peacefully coexist with their human neighbors.