Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP)
Mission: Rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned elephants back into the wild.
Species: African Elephant
Location: South Kafue National Park, Zambia
Support started: 2010
Donating: £5,000 towards some of the costs for veterinary care and food for the elephants.
Background: The Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) was established in September 2007 with support from the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) and the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).
During the 1970’s and 80’s, over 90% of Zambia’s elephants were killed due to the ivory trade. In 1989, the international ivory trade was finally banned allowing elephant numbers to increase. However more recently a decision has been made to partially lift the ivory ban, allowing selective sales of ivory stockpiles. This in turn has re-opened the illegal markets and poaching has begun to increase again in Zambia. If the ivory trade were to return large scale then Zambia would not be able to control it, due to limited resources and unmanned boarders. Adult elephants are targeted for their ivory; this often leaves behind young orphans whose survival prospects are very low without the care of a mother.
Kafue National Park is the second largest park in Africa, offering one of the most pristine wildlife habitats for elephants and over 50 other species in Zambia. However all the wildlife is very vulnerable until protection can be improved. DSWF and Game Rangers International (GRI) have now started a new Park Protection Programme that aims to stop poaching and minimise its devastating and costly impact on wildlife populations. There are two main components; proactive species protection through a special anti-poaching ranger training and welfare support, and to rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned elephants as a direct result of poaching.
The elephant orphanage has been built and developed since 2008, starting with an elephants called Phoenix who was rescued in 2001. She was found trying to suckle from her dead mother. Phoenix against all odds pulled through and became the catalyst of this project. Shortly after her release in Kafue she contracted bilary and tragically died. The orphanage is now called Camp Phoenix in her honour and her memory lives on through the successful rescue, rehabilitation and release of new orphans
The project’s keepers look after the orphans around the clock, as young orphans require a lot of attention and milk feeds every three hours. During the day, the elephants are taken on two long walks in the park accompanied by 2 keepers and a ZAWA scout. Walks are a time for feeding in the bush, developing natural instincts, playing and mud-bathing, as well as encountering other animals and getting to know their terrain. At night, the orphans are kept within the boma stables and are provided with grass for sleeping on, as they all sleep (and snore) lying down. If the weather is cold the elephants are provided with blankets and pony rugs. The keepers will check the temperature of the elephants’ ears to indicate if they are warm enough.
The need for funds is ever increasing with more orphans joining the project every year. The project now has 2 camps; EOP Lilayi Elephant Nursery where keepers provide constant care, feeding young orphans around the clock, and EOP Kafue Release Facility for those that are not milk dependent and need less time with
Achievements: EOP works with Game Rangers International (GRI) a non-profit Zambian NGO, established in 2008. GRI works in close co-operation with the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and local communities. GRI focuses on park protection to save Zambia's wildlife, maintain its ecosystems and benefit the local rural people. GRI works alongside Community Resources Boards and ZAWA to help minimise illegal poaching activities and to provide long-term protection for the National Park and it’s Game Management Areas. This is achieved by providing support to scout welfare, salaries, equipments, transport, rations and training to Village Scouts – these are the men on the ground, who patrol the region removing snares and cracking poaching activities. Currently this programme operates within the immediate release zone for the orphaned elephants to help secure their future back in the wild.
GRI recognises the importance of engaging the local communities, without whom the project would not succeed. The project promotes and supports community partnership projects such as schools, clinics, access to markets, small scale co-operatives and welfare schemes, with a focus on the sustainable utilisation of natural resources. Integral to this programme is the provision of support toward the mitigation of human-elephant conflict in the area.
Future objectives: To continue with the mission;
Rescue - To allocate some more experienced keepers to form a specialised ‘Mobile Rescue Team’ who can be deployed to any potential orphan call out, where they will support a vulnerable elephant through the rescue process and stabilise its condition in-situ, before translocating it to the EOP.
Rehabilitate - Establishing a ‘Nursery Facility’, which will provide the next step for rescued orphans who require a very high level of care and veterinary attention for possibly the first three years of their lives and especially whilst they are still milk dependant. The elephant nursery will be situated in a high profile location to maximise awareness of the situation on the ground and also to help raise much need funding for the Project.
Release – The current Release Facility — Camp Phoenix, located in Kafue National Park, is fully operational and provides the necessary remoteness and access to wild elephants, to allow the orphans to gradually become detached from human intervention and learn how to be wild again.
Batoka an orphan cared for at EOP picture © Rachael Murton
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