Tafika and Mosi have just had their satellite collars re-fitted after some technical challenges. It is essential that we utilise this incredible technology in order to understand how well the orphans are adapting to life in the wild once they are out of sight (although never out of heart)!
Rachael Murton, Wildlife Rescue Director, who has been on this journey with Tafika since his rescue, tells us more.
“Tafika has been considered a ‘free-roaming’ release elephant for a year now, since he has been choosing to come and go with the orphan herd as he pleases. At 11½ years old and approximately 2 ton in weight we feel he is really preparing to take the next step into the wild, at a similar age as a wild bull would be naturally gearing up to leave his mother’s herd. Whilst his close companion Chamilandu has remained inside the safety of the Boma (3Ha paddock) overnight to protect little Mutaanzi-David, Tafika has been wandering freely in the Park, which demonstrates his increasing desire to become independent. The satellite collar enables us to monitor his movements when he is not in visual range and this helps us to understand his release progression: how far he is going, what habitat and resources he is utilising and if he is socialising with wild elephants (by being in the same areas as they are recorded). With Tafika spending time away from the herd Mosi now 9¾ years has stepped into the dominant bull role and will likely also start to break away from the orphan herd soon, hence it is important we can also track his movements via satellite technology which we can translate into coloured dots on our location maps…so watch this space!”
When working with such large elephants in the process of re-wilding it is essential they are treated as if they are wild and thus in order to fit their collars the elephants need to be fully sedated. The Elephant Orphanage Project is a collaboration between GRI and the Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife, whose Vet Unit ensured that Tafika and Mosi were darted for sedation as the collars were safely fitted and secured. When an elephant is sedated we use this opportunity to take routine blood and dung samples so we can monitor their health from a clinical level and also add to the Zambian ‘biobank’ for elephant data.
With huge thanks to Dr Katampi and Dr Phiri for their support with this procedure and of course the partners who enable us to implement this technology: DNPW, IFAW, OAT, DSWF, ProWildlife, Savannah Tracking.