Young elephant calf Suni was found in the wild alone and with an axe injury to her spine.

Around three years on she still suffers with partial paralysis in her back leg, but Suni has learned to walk wearing a special boot to prevent her ankle rolling and causing damage to her foot, thanks to the dedication of the Elephant Orphanage Project.

Suni is just one of the many calves enjoying a second chance for life through the mission of the Elephant Orphanage Project to rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned elephants back into the wild in Zambia. Tragically as in other African countries, each year many young elephants are orphaned as a result of poaching or human-elephant conflict.

Zambia was home to 250,000 elephants in the early 1970s, yet today less than 20,000 survive. Game Rangers International set up the Elephant Orphanage Project in 2007 to rescue young orphaned calves who’s chances of survival in the wild would be incredibly low.

ele-orphanThe project responds to orphaned elephant alerts within 12 hours and takes them to Lilayi Elephant Nursery, situated in Lusaka Zambia’s capital. Here they are cared for around the clock by locally employed, highly trained keepers. Very young calves need to be fed with a special milk formula every three hours, and the keepers accompany the elephants out on walks or sit close by their stables at night.

With the help of their keepers and new siblings, the calves learn to overcome the loss of their family and learn to play, bath and look around their new natural surroundings. Once they are weaned, they move to the Kafue Release Facility, in southern Kafue National Park, to be with the older orphans where they gradually learn to mix with the local elephant population as they explore further afield their new home back in the wild.

Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild charity has been supporting the project since 2010, and in May this year donated a further £5000.

The dedication, care and medical support from the Elephant Orphanage Project team, means Suni can now put her best foot forward again.


Article kindly written by © Sarah Jones Beer

Images © Elephant Orphanage Project

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