Mission: Rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned elephants back into the wild.
Species: African Elephant
Location: South Kafue National Park, Zambia
Support started: 2010
Donating: Annual donation of £5,000 towards the costs for veterinary care and food for the elephants.
Find out more about our work with this project through our annual report:
Background: The Elephant Orphanage Project was established in Zambia in 2007 with the aim to rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned elephants back into the wild. The Elephant Orphanage Project was set up through a Zambian registered NGO; Game Rangers International (GRI), with major ongoing support from the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF). GRI works in close partnership with the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA). The EOP is the only programme of its kind in Zambia.
During the 1970’s and 80’s, over 90% of Zambia’s elephants were killed due to the ivory trade. Recently, illegal markets and poaching have begun to increase again in Zambia. 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) run a Park Protection Programme that aims to stop poaching and minimise its devastating and costly impact on wildlife populations.
The Elephant Orphanage Project has developed two facilities to provide the specific care requirements for the elephant orphans it receives. EOP offers a mobile rescue unit, which aims to respond to orphan alerts within 12 hours of contact and transport the calves to the EOP Lilayi Elephant Nursery (LEN) where these fragile elephants are cared for around the clock. A team of locally employed, highly trained keepers care for them and watch over them constantly – whether out during their daily walks or sitting close by their stables at night. Together with their new siblings and keepers, these young elephants learn to overcome the tragic loss of their natal family, as they browse, play and bath together within a natural environment. As soon as the calves can be weaned from milk, they are moved to the Kafue National Park to join other older orphaned elephants as EOP Kafue Release Facility (KRF) where they become more independent of human support and spend most of their time browsing freely in the National Park. The facility backs onto the ancient Ngoma Teak Forest where there is a significant local elephant population, which maximises the opportunity for the orphans to eventually reintegrate with fellow elephants back in the wild. Over time, the orphans become more independent of the facility and younger herd and will start to live further away, demonstrating their interest and ability to live back in the wild where they belong.
Future objectives: The ultimate aim is to continue to facilitate the release of the elephants back into the wild. Post-release they will continue to be studied and observed to determine their ability to integrate within wild elephant society.
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