At the Lusaka 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 without intervention.
Left to fend for themselves, these orphans struggle without the milk they need to survive, or the opportunity to learn critical social skills from their mothers. The stress of losing a mother often weakens the calves’ immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to malnutrition, dehydration and other stress-related health problems.
Working with the GRI-Lusaka Elephant Nursery Project (LEN), a non-governmental organization based in Zambia, we helped develop and operate an elephant nursery.
This is the first elephant orphanage in Southern Africa and the second on the continent. Its mission is to return rescued elephants back to the wild. Our teams take orphaned elephants out for regular walks, put them on feeding schedules and even watch over them while they sleep.
The project outgrew the capacity of the original nursery, so we built a new one. A production company, Sinking Ship Entertainment (SSE), asked us to join them in an innovative approach to launching their new TV show, Endlings. SSE included funds for elephant conservation in the show’s overall production costs and worked with us to cover the costs of building a new nursery.
The new nursery opened in August 2022 in Lusaka National Park. The park is spacious and offers a peaceful environment for the elephants to begin their journey back to the wild.
The nursery is a part of GRI’s larger Wildlife Discovery Centre, which operates in partnership with IFAW, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Olsen Animal Trust and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife 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.