As dawn rose at the Lusaka Elephant Nursery the team gathered eagerly to prepare for Olimba and Chip’s big day! The elephants were kept in their stables as DNPW vet Dr Chadzaantso prepared sedatives and the Keepers prepared milk formula, enough to last for an expected 10+ hour journey into the Kafue National Park.
Olimba was the first to be let out of her stable and she stood patiently drinking her milk with Keeper Martin as Dr Chadzaantso carefully darted her with an anaesthetic. Within minutes she laid down. Her eyes were covered, vitals checked and biological samples swiftly taken before the extended team had the mammoth task of lifting her! With a cargo net carefully slid under her 680kg body, she was lifted and carried inside the relocation truck. Once inside, the anaesthetic was reversed and Olimba quickly came to and got to her feet. It was then Chip’s turn. He eagerly walked out of his stable where he was darted in the rump, resulting in him laying down as the drugs took affect quickly. Lifting Chip was comparatively much easier, being a year younger and with him weighing 485kg, but still required a team of 13 strong men to lift him safely inside the truck. The sedative seemed to affect him more deeply than Olimba as upon waking he drowsily nestled back into the hay bedding recovering slowly and only stood up once the truck got underway.
A sedated Olimba was lifted onto the truck by the team before her sedation was reversed.
The two ele’s pulled out of Lusaka National Park at 8am, munching on browse as they started the 400km journey to their new home. They travelled really well with both ele’s being calm and presented no challenges – a welcome surprise after the previous translocation of Lani, who had fought the sedatives and the truck for the whole journey! The ele’s were checked on every two hours with the Keepers offering milk, electrolytes, water and fresh browse. On the first three stops they showed no interested in fluids but continued to devour the browse. They were in separate compartments of the truck for safety, but with each stop we saw Olimba moving her trunk into the next compartment to touch Chip. A caring gesture which likely provided her with as much comfort as it did for Chip. On the fourth stop both elephants completed two bottles of milk each, then electrolytes and then water - really making up for their previous disinterest.
Chip recovering from his sedation and back on his feet with Keeper Sunday
reaching down encouraging him to feed.
The ele’s finally arrived at the Release Facility at 18hrs after a smooth but long 10-hour drive and were offloaded into the Boma stables. Chip was at the back of the truck so should have been the first to come out, but he was too nervous to take steps outside, even after lots of encouragement and comfort by his favourite Keeper Sunday. So Olimba’s door was opened and the two elephants, although still a little hesitant, took their first steps out of the truck together, walking down the sandy ramp following their Keepers calls. Usually, we would lead the ele’s into a stable each so that they could get some good sleep and rest after such a long and tiring journey, but neither ele wanted to be separated. Olimba refused to go into a stable on her own and so did Chip! Eventually both elephants were led together into the largest stable where they could comfort each other throughout the night and recover, before they would have the excitement and stress of meeting this new, large and bigger elephant herd the next morning.
Please consider adopting Olimba or Chipembele, to support them on this next step in their release journey.