Lusaka Elephant Nursery
Born April 2022
A 4-month-old elephant was left behind as her herd moved past villages in the Rufunsa region of Luangwa.
She was screaming for her mother but none of the elephants took notice, and she was too slow to keep up with the fast-moving herd. She became disorientated, running through Chikumbi Village as she was left alone.
The community gathered to her aid and ensured that she was safe. They tied her to a tree with a soft rope, to prevent her from running off and Game Rangers International was contacted. Our Resource Protection Manager based in Rufunsa sent officers to check on the elephant and provide support before the Wildlife Rescue Team could get to the site, the next day. Following instructions, the community carers wrapped cloth around the restraining rope to prevent “rope burn.” While tying a young elephant up is not an ideal scenario, it was essential in the absence of an appropriate enclosure, to prevent her from disappearing into the bush. A Community Ranger was stationed with her and ensured that she had fresh browse and water throughout the night.
We were so impressed with the level of care given to this little elephant, especially in an area where there are a lot of interactions between people and elephants, both striving for the same resources and causing conflict.
The Wildlife Rescue Team arrived the following day and stabilised the calf further, providing her with electrolytes and much-needed reassurance. She had only lain down briefly from the moment that she had been rescued, due to the activity and strange environment that she found herself in. She could not relax and was in desperate need of rest. She had lost body condition, her cheek bones were sunken and hip-bones prominent, suggesting dehydration and malnutrition. It is likely that she lost her mother a few days earlier. Mother elephants do not leave their young easily, so it is hard to understand why this happened, but there is an elevated level of poaching in the area.
A 4-month-old elephant is dependent on their mother’s milk; however, she was strong and well-developed. She managed to control the use of her trunk already and was able to drink water and browse ferociously. Despite her loss and trauma, she was showing fierce independence, which makes us hopeful for her recovery.
As the community cared for her so attentively, she was named Chikumbi. The name means “rain cloud” in the local language of Nyanja, and rain is hugely celebrated, bringing hope and prosperity.
While the Wildlife Rescue Team focussed on supporting Chikumbi and preparing her for the next step in her journey, the CEO of GRI, Jon Churcher, and Community Outreach Officer for the Rufunsa area, Chrispine, spent time with the villagers, thanking them for their care and reinforcing the message of reporting injured or abandoned wildlife as well as any conflict concerns so our teams can support them where they need it most.
After just settling into the herd at the start of January, Chikumbi struggled with the arrival of another orphan, Mataya. She didn’t know how to act and submitted to him, even though she was his senior. She was also displaying some nervous self-directed behaviours and immediately went to a Keeper to comfort-suckle. The Keepers have monitored her closely and are on hand with comfort if they see the behaviours (such as repeatedly touching herself with her trunk). With this additional care, she is now becoming more at ease with Mataya and is spending increasing amounts of time with him.