At the end of October 2016, two of the nursery herd, Muchichili and Nkala, were relocated to the Kafue National Park to join the release herd reaching a significant milestone in their progression towards life back in the wild.  They set off for Kafue National Park with checks every 2 hours and fluids and fresh browse being offered to the ever-hungry elephants. In record time, the young orphans were being offloaded at the Release Facility stables; within 10 hours of entering the truck they completed the 400km journey without a hitch.  Both Nkala and Muchichili easily went into new stables following their keepers who had travelled with them from the Nursery – the men who have been their ‘mothers’ since their rescue.  For Nkala that has been since he was 3 months old, so he has been very much reliant on his human family throughout his life. The orphans were stabled overnight to ensure they had full opportunity to rest, rehydrate and eat to get their strength back before meeting a new herd of ten elephants. At least not all of the elephants were new to them; Maramba and Kavala knew Nkala two years ago, and Zambezi and Musolole only graduated to the Release Facility in March 2016, so their memories of each other were quite fresh. Sure enough as soon as the older orphans returned to the boma for the night, Musolole and Zambezi rushed to the edge of the stables lifting their trunks to smell their friend Nkala. They were only beaten to this position by Chamilandu, the herd matriarch, who rushed straight to the stables eager to meet her latest babies!

Nkala and Muchichili settled extremely well and have been welcomed and accepted by the herd which is very reassuring as it bodes well for their overall adaption to life in Kafue National Park, where social skills are key to survival in order to learn from the more mature and experienced elephants of the local area.

Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild charity has been supporting the Elephant Orphanage Project since 2010. To date, we have donated £35,000 towards the costs of veterinary care and food for the elephants, with a further £5,000 pledged for 2017.

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