Giving it time: Abandoned or orphaned animals can reintegrate on their own

Perhaps you have seen the heart-wrenching video above released recently of the young Asian elephant in India mourning the death of its mother.

In the course of the animal rescue work we do at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), we see many tragic events—some induced by humankind, others natural in origin. Regardless of how many times I see these events, via video or firsthand, they are never easy to watch. It is deeply saddening.

I am inspired by the human response to some of these situations. Even when induced by humans (through poaching or the creep of human communities into wild habitats), so many people are affected by what they see and want to help.

We have received many inquiries to ask if IFAW can help this particular elephant calf.

As hard as it may be to understand, sometimes the best thing we can do is wait and watch. My team rescues animals of all kinds all around the world. We work with rehabilitation centers to care for animals and prepare them for release back into the wild. We monitor their progress after release to ensure they are doing well and integrating back into the wild.

The human instinct is to intervene, especially when the root cause is human-induced. However, in many cases, the best thing we can do for the animal is to attempt to keep it wild. For social animals, like this elephant, the best possible outcome would be to have it rejoin its herd, or be adopted by another herd.

No human can raise an elephant as well as an elephant can. This is true across all species. When we find a stranded seal pup on the beach, our protocol is to monitor and observe that pup while we give its mother the chance to return.

We may even help an animal reunite if the conditions are right.

READ: Rescue unit reunites elephant calf with mother, herd in Kaziranga

When the animal’s condition is declining, or it becomes clear that reuniting a young animal with its mother or reintegration into a natal group is not possible, then we switch to rescue mode.

Our partners at the Wildlife Trust of India are monitoring the situation and have offered their support and expertise to the Forest Range Officer in charge of this event.

We have a WTI/IFAW representative headed to the scene as well to gather more information.

We hope that this young elephant will be reunited with its herd. If that does not happen, then our team stands ready to assist if needed.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime