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Chipembele, the 2-year-old elephant rescued from tragedy.


Thanks to an incredible, collaborative effort, another young elephant orphan has been rescued from harrowing circumstances.

Elephant calf orphan with dying elephant mother
Chipmebele desperately seeking comfort from his fatally wounded mother.

In South Luangwa National Park staff from Lion Camp reported a severely injured, lame elephant with a suckling calf. They monitored the elephant until the Department of National Parks & Wildlife and Conservation South Luangwa teams could assess her. They found she had a fatal gunshot wound, almost certainly inflicted by ivory poachers. She was in very poor condition, with her milk already starting to dry up, and would not survive. The calf was at her side, trying to suckle frequently in order to get the nutrition he desperately needed.


A heart rendering decision had to be made, to euthanise her and save the calf.


Elephant Baby Calf sedated, being rescued by Game Rangers International Wildlife Rescue
Chipembele, sedated, ready for transportation to Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust

Both mother and calf were immobilised with sedatives to avoid any more psychological trauma and whilst under sedation, the 2-year-old calf was moved by road to Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust for stabilisation, where GRI Keeper Elvis had been kindly rushed to the scene by Proflight Zambia.

After waking from sedatives, the young calf quickly got to his feet, stretched and started running around the enclosure. He was clearly distressed and disoriented. Having lost his mother, he charged the fence and took some time to calm. His reaction was unsurprising, considering the heartbreak and trauma he had just been through. As a milk–dependant youngster he would have not strayed far from his mother’s side throughout his life and the bond between mother and calf is incredibly intense and filled with emotion, much like our own.

Elephant Calf Orphan being transported by Wildlife Rescue Team
Chip stretches his legs after waking from the sedative

After some time, having been provided with food, water and Elvis’s constant company he began to settle. He was willing to accept a bottle (of electrolytes and later milk) from Elvis within 24 hours of his rescue, but he did not relax enough to sleep for over 3 days. This little elephant was a fighter for sure. Due to his tough appearance, and in acknowledgement of this critical support, he was called ‘Chipembele’, the name for ‘black rhino’ in the local language of Chinyanja.


Game Rangers International Wildlife Ranger Elvis comforting rescued elephant calf
Chipembele, learning to trust Elvis, Wildlife Rescue Ranger.

Chipembele faces a challenging journey to recover from his trauma. We need your support to support him and give him a chance of a life back in the wild where he belongs.

Please consider donating to GRI. Just $35 will provide an elephant orphan with specialised milk for a week.


This rescue was conducted with thank to our partners in conservation IFAW, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Olsen Animal Trust and the Elephant Cooperation.


Photos by GRI, Conservation South Luangwa

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