Rescue and Rehabilitation- Elephant  
   
 

Total Annual US$ Cost to Feed One Baby Elephant Orphan

Economix Milk Powder

25kg bag $98.90 x 48 bags per year

  $     4,747.20

Glucose Powder

25kg bag $ 32.88 x 20 bags per year

$658

Calcium

8.63 for 1kg x 12 kg per year

$104

Vitamin C

$24.52 for 1kg x 12 kg per year

$294

Equinophos

$21.23 for 5kgs x 5 bags per year

$106

Coconut (Dessicated)

$29.59 for 5kg bag x 5 bags per year

$148

Total Annual Cost

For 1 Baby Elephant

$6057.20

* Costing does not include costs of transport, bottles, teats, or staff, etc

 

 
    The History of the Herd  
 

As VFWT has grown and taken in elephant orphans, a release program needed to be adopted for the long-term sustainability of this project. However, releasing elephant individually has not worked previously. Elephant in the wild have a developed social structure with a matriarchal heirarchy. Young animals are looked and after by the females. Therefor we realized early on that we needed to find a way to duplicate the herd structure within our own orphan herd. The opportunity to structure this herd with an older adult female elephant came about when one of the captive elephant in the area that always takes in orphans, had to have an operation rendering her infertile. As the adult female was predisposed to taking in young orphaned animals this worked well to have her as the matriarch of the release herd.

 
      Makwa and Kennedy  
 

 

 

In the early months of  2010 Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) entered into an arrangement with an international zoo whereby ZPWMA would provide two animals of a variety of species in exchange for funds which would assist with various conservation requirements in Hwange Park. Over the course of the next few months ZPWMA captured a wide variety of animals, however in June of 2010 this business arrangement fell through and the Director General of ZPWMA requested the assistance of a number of organizations to release the animals. VFWT was requested to take temporary custodianship of the two young elephant "Makwa" and "Kennedy", with a view to integrating  them socially with other orpahn elephans within the Sanctuary area until such time as they are of sufficient age to allow release back into the wild .

It was on a very brisk morning on July 12th, 2010 that we gathered our team in Hwange National Park, and walked both Makwa and Kennedy out of their pens to the waiting wildlife translocation truck that would translocate them to their new home in Victoria Falls. Everything went smoothly loading both Makwa and Kennedy, and they were relaxed for the three hour journey to Victoria Falls. The physical condition of both animals was very good. The ZPWMA staff together with the VFWT team, worked very well together to get the elephant loaded and transported to Victoria Falls, and we give thanks to ZPWMA for their support and assistance.

Upon arrival at the Sanctuary just outside of Victoria Falls, both Makwa and Kennedy were fully awake and alert. We were able to offload both elephant by walking and they settled into their new stables to eat and acclimatize after the journey. After being introduced slowly to the other elephant in the release herd, Makwa and Kennedy were fully socially integrated and over time, they joined the herd that is soft released on the property.

The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust have undertaken to continue to monitor Makwa and Kennedy in the elephant herd that is soft released on the property at this time.

 
   

 

LuLu  
 

 

It was March 29th, 2008 the day Zimbabwe had yet another Presidential election.  However, those of us at VFWT were also focused on the birth of Lulu which happened early the same morning.  Much like the election, which in the end would cause months of political turmoil, Lulu became a baby elephant that would cause turmoil amongst the elephant herd.  Lulu’s development was superb; she grew fast, drank plenty of milk with colostrum, and was a happy baby elephant.  Unfortunately, in December 2008, Lulu’s mother was involved in an accident and had to be euthanized due to her injuries. 

At 9 months old Lulu became an orphan.  She quickly took a liking to one of the older female elephant, that didn't have any calves of her own, and would eventually become the matriarch for the release herd. This was a wonderful fit for us.  With Lulu being orphaned we were very concerned about her milk intake.   We had to supplement Lulu with bottles made from a milk powder formula that we have developed over the years.  Luckily, Lulu took to the bottles without a problem, and did not become fully dependent on them..  For a 9 month old baby elephant, Lulu had remarkable development with being able to eat and digest game cubes, and grass.  When the rainy season began, Lulu was able to take full advantage of the lush green grass growing everywhere and supplement her diet.  Thanks to the help of Mother Nature, we only had to enhance Lulu’s diet with 4-6 bottles a day. 

Out of Lulu’s story we at VFWT have learned a valuable lesson, and now take more of a background role with all of our elephant orphans. The elephant do just fine socially interacting with their own kind.  It is time to let Lulu just be an elephant, and learn from other elephant rather than from humans.  Therefore, other than giving Lulu her bottles, we take a step back so she interacts with the elephant in the herd for her social cues and stimulus.   For those of us that have raised orphans before, this is very difficult, but we know that further on down the line it is what is best.  We must try to leave a smaller human imprint on her so that when she is eventually released in the wild, she will survive without human interference. 

 
      Mashaba  
 

 

Sadly not all of the animals we take in have a happy ending. We do our best to provide them with the best quality of life for as long as we can. Mashaba was an elephant that was one of those cases where we did all we could. He was found in the bush in severe distress. He was a youngster of about 4 years old and had been horrifically entwined in a wire snare which had wrapped around his back right foot. The poor elephant had obviously been in this cruel and painful state for a long time as the bottom of the foot had torn away and he was left with almost nothing but protruding bone. Having been unable to keep up with his herd he had been abandoned and was severely traumatised. We were able to get Mashaba back to the rehabiliation area and get him to interact with the other elephant to calm him down.

Mashaba became the most wonderful, patient and gentle elephant. He spent a very difficult 7 months being worked on daily by vets and caretakers, having his foot treated and scrubbed and cleaned day in and day out. Mashaba slowly recovered and when he was finally well enough to walk on his injured leg and he joined the other elephant on the property. This was Mashaba's life - he LOVED being part of a new herd obviously having lost his, and we were always amazed at how his tragedy seemed to have been put aside as long as he was with the other animals. For several years his leg improved as the wound healed, however he had a permanent limp. We had hoped that the skin would finally close over and heal but this was not to be. Over a process of time, perhaps 6 years into his rehabilitation, we noticed that Mashaba was struggling once more to keep up with the herd. We let him stay back with the other young orphans hoping that the rest would help with his recovery.

Unfortunately, Mashaba's wound did not improve - gradually he managed to walk less and less as he grew in height and weight, until eventually we realised that his muscles up his leg were beginning to atrophy and pain was now a regular feature of his life again. On calling in other vetinerary surgeons for a prognosis - the news was not good. In the end Mashaba was not going to be able to live without pain. Sadly we had to put Mashaba down as he could no longer walk or move about without pain. Mashaba's case is one that was a human inflicted injury that despite all our best attempts he could not overcome. In the rescue and rehabilitation centre we always aim to try and give each animal a chance to recover whenever possible. Animals have an amazing ability to heal.