A week since Chipembele was rescued after his mother was fatally wounded by poachers, he gradually started to trust Elvis and followed him around, eagerly anticipating every bottle of milk.
Elephant calves are usually weaned by their mothers between 2 and 3 years old but the height of Zambia’s dry season is not an optimal time for weaning and Chipembele was clearly in need of this specialised nutrition to survive.
Once he had settled and was drinking well, plans were made to transport him to the GRI Elephant Nursery in Lusaka where he would be united with other elephants, and which will from a crucial part of his rehabilitation back into the wild. Due to his size and the distance to the Nursery the safest method of transport was by road. In a support convoy of two vehicles and a specially modified trailer, donated by The International Foundation for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Chipembele made his journey to Lusaka. Given the trust he had started to develop in Elvis, he amazingly and willingly followed Elvis into the trailer lured by milk. Once inside, Dr Sichande from Conservation South Luangwa administered a mild sedative to help calm him for the long journey ahead.
He travelled incredibly well, drinking fluids offered every two hours, and eating fresh browse cut along the way. He also, importantly, laid down to rest in the hay which was essential on this 16-hour road trip!
Upon arrival at the Nursery, ‘Chip’ willingly walked out of the trailer and was ushered into his newly waiting stable, full of fresh browse and hay to sleep in, but most importantly with elephant neighbours to reassure him in, yet again, new surroundings.
Chipembele slept very well after arrival and continued to drink all feeds offered. His first day was ‘bed rest’ in order to recover from his journey and regain his strength, but after a couple of days he was allowed out of his stable to stretch his legs when the other elephants were out in the bush. In these early days, before he has bonded with the Keepers who will become his surrogate family, it is not yet safe to let him walk amongst the other elephants in the bush. At 2 years old and weighing 300+kg he could seriously injure a Keeper if he feels scared or confused, and it is critical that he first trusts the Keepers and seeks comfort in them. Given his current progress it will not likely be long before he is fully integrated with the herd and walking safely amongst them as he takes his first few steps towards a life back in the wild. A life that was so tragically and cruelly ripped from him to satisfy a demand for ivory.
GRI works closely with Department of National Parks and Wildlife to empower rangers on the frontline of conservation and combat the wildlife crime that is responsible for creating such elephant orphans. Please consider supporting GRI in this mission by donating here. $35 provides rations for one ranger on patrol, protecting wildlife for one week.