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Big steps by a big-hearted elephant!

We are thrilled to announce that Musolole, one of the most social orphans in the Release Herd, has finally shown, at the age of 12½ years, that he was ready for independence and has headed out into the wilds of Kafue National Park.

Muso now has impressive tusks and is very well equipped to live back in the wild

Muso, as he is affectionately known, recently left the Elephant Release Facility and initially joined Chamilandu’s herd for a few days, but then he branched off and headed to the South of KNP and beyond, touching onto the historical elephant corridor leading towards the Sioma/Namibia region. Muso is fitted with a GPS tracking collar around his neck, so we are able to follow his unique journey remotely. We believe he has accompanied wild elephants, as the orphans are not usually so brave on their own, especially on a first adventure away.  Muso is the first elephant orphan ever to leave the release facility and so quickly venture to the South of the Park, which is an area they very rarely explore, but perhaps there is a biological draw, as this is the area he was rescued from.

 Muso has travelled South of KNP covering over 100km from KRF, the longest distance covered by an orphaned elephant post-release.

Muso was rescued in 2011 in Sioma Ngwesi National Park, where tragically his mother had been shot by poachers for her ivory tusks. In an incredibly brave and dedicated effort, National Parks officers heard the gunshot and responded immediately. They found a terrified 5-month-old calf running by his dead mother’s body as poachers were hacking the tusks from her face. It was a brutal scene, and the poachers were well equipped. Upon discovery they opened gunfire and tragically killed Officer Sitali Musolole in his attempts to protect Zambia’s wildlife.  The poachers then fled deep into the park, although were later caught, arrested and imprisoned, but in that moment, the traumatised team of officers made the decision to rescue the young calf and bring him back to their headquarters. We arrived to an incredibly sombre scene, and the surviving calf was named Musolole in honour of the brave Officer who lost his life in the line of duty. Muso’s story really highlights the harsh realities that many rangers face daily as they patrol and protect our Protected Areas and wild spaces. They really are our unsung heroes of wildlife conservation. 

Our Keepers help to cool a traumatised young Musolole at Sioma Ngewsi Park Headquarters hours after his mother was shot by poachers.

Our Keepers help to cool a traumatised young Muso at Sioma Ngwezi Park Headquarters hours after his mother was shot by poachers.

Musolole has always been a very significant member of the orphan herds. He has the reputation for being one of the most friendly and welcoming elephants across the years. At the release facility when new orphans arrive, he is nearly always the first to be in line to greet them, offering gentle caresses and warm rumbles. When long-term Matriarch Chamilandu left the herd, Muso stepped in to be the social glue, ensuring everyone felt part of this unique and special family. So, his recent departure from the orphans has left them now looking to the oldest female Kavalamanja for support and guidance, and occasionally some reassurance. Given that Muso has always been so friendly and respectful it is likely that he has quickly connected with some wild elephants and made this surprisingly long journey out of the South of the Park, but with the strong ties and bonds he has developed with the other orphans we feel sure that he will return at some point to rekindle with them, even if he has now decided it’s time to remain in the wild, which we hope he has, as it’s where he truly belongs.

LEFT: Muso has been a social, gregarious and fun-loving elephant all throughout his rehabilitation.

CENTRE: Muso and Kavala have developed a strong bond that spans 12 years.

RIGHT: Muso is the first to welcome newcomers Mbila and Zongo.

Musolole is generously sponsored by Elephant Cooperation.

The GRI-Elephant Orphanage Project operates in partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Olsen Animal Trust, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife and African Parks who work as partners to manage Kafue National Park.

This Christmas please think of those brave men and women who continue to work tirelessly and consider showing them how much they are appreciated. Donate today to support our frontline rangers.

Article by Rachael Murton


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