It’s hard to believe that this orphaned elephant has turned 16 – and that she has done so back out in the wild with her calf, Mutaanzi-David.
Chamilandu (aka Chamma) has a unique story to tell. She was only one-and-a-half years old when her mother was shot and badly wounded by poachers, leaving her a traumatised orphan in South Luangwa National Park. Fortunately she received help and was flown to the Kafue Release Facility in 2007. Over the years, Chamma grew into an affectionate and caring elephant. As the matriarch of the Kafue release herd, she welcomed and comforted any new young orphans trans-located from the Lilayi Elephant Nursery.
After spending four years roaming free in Kafue National Park, Chamma made a significant life decision to return to the elephant boma two-and-a-half years ago to give birth to her calf, Mutaanzi-David. She made history by becoming the first orphaned elephant to give birth to a wild-born calf in Zambia. From then on, Chamma led her precious calf back to the safety of the boma, where she herself was raised, every evening. Without a mature herd of her own for defence, she must have instinctively understood the risks of single parenting in the wild.
But recently Chamma had a change of heart... After demonstrating resistance to returning inside the boma gate, she led Mutaanzi away from the orphan herd and instead sought the company of Tafika, now a strong, 13-and-a-half year old bull, to resume her free-roaming lifestyle.
While the team who raised her were overjoyed to see her back in the wild they were concerned for the safety of Mutaanzi, who is still very vulnerable to predators. However, her close proximity to Tafika, who has had experience with lions, reassures them, as does the fact that they both wear satellite collars so that their movements can be tracked.
As a female, Chamma is likely to always see the release herd as ‘her herd’, unlike bachelor elephants who tend to disperse further, and will probably continue to come back to visit them. That said, she still needs to regain her experience in the wild and learn more about being an elephant outside of the release herd structure. This entails forming associations with wild elephants again.
Although it may be disruptive for the release herd now, they will adjust in time. At the end of the day, she is gaining more experience to be a better, wiser matriarch when they too get to the release phase.
While the team continues to be concerned about Mutaanzi, they are mindful that he is not an orphan. They are also comforted by the fact that Chamma is taking control and once again making significant steps towards living a life back in the wild where she truly belongs.
“The rest of the team, myself and my fellow keepers, we are happy for Chamma. We will learn a lot of things from her behaviour, as we are still learning from the other elephants that are here. Maybe when the other elephants do the same, she will be the one now to show them what to do. My heart’s desire is for all the other elephants to follow in Chamma’s footsteps, to be free...”
concludes Maison, who was her keeper when she first arrived at the facility.
While Chamilandu and Mutaanzi David are now free-roaming elephants, Game Rangers International continue to support them via monitoring their movements via satellite collar, empowering the Rangers who protect the release area where they now roam, and through vital research and behaviour observation we observe their success in the wild and use this information to inform our processes. It would mean the world to us if you adopted Chamilandu with her calf, Mutaanzi-David so we can continue this vital work. See link below.