Rescue, rehabilitation, and release are the three main objectives of the Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) sponsored by Game Rangers International (GRI) in Zambia. The EOP is a nursery for abandoned elephant calves that have fallen victim to poaching, human conflict, or environmental factors. Here they are cared for 24/7 by trained Keepers and fed milk formula every 3 hours! They are given the space and support to heal from their experiences and to grow in a loving environment.
When they are old enough to be weaned from milk, they are transported to the Kafue National Park at the EOP Kafue Release Facility to join older orphaned elephants where they become more independent of human support and live freely until they are ready for release and reintegration back in the wild.
To spread their work to the community, Lilayi offers a viewing deck for the public to watch the baby elephants and to learn more about the project every day for 2 hours. This past Saturday, as an awesome idea for a #ZamFam bonding activity, our program manager arranged for us to attend the daily public feeding. Though I was excited to be reunited with #ZamFam, I was absolutely thrilled to be in the presence of baby elephants, even if it was only just to watch.
They are my absolute favorite animal!! I have always wanted to be an ellie because I like to think of myself as big, strong, and loud. I even had a dream months before visiting Lilayi that the elephants spoke to me and used their trunks as selfie sticks to capture our playtime. I was so close to leaving GHC to become a Keeper at the nursery….
Meet the Ellies
The oldest of the 3 we saw, Nkala, was found distraught amongst a community’s cattle after he lost his own herd.
The second oldest, Zambezi, was found splashing around in a pool at one month old. He was very small and very dehydrated, but now he is growing fast!
The youngest, Musolole, was found after poachers had shot his mother. He is still very small but growing strong. It was so cute to watch him follow the others and to see how confused he was by his trunk!
To top off an ellie-dedicated post, here are some fun facts:
- Elephants purr like cats as a means of communication.
- Only one mammal can’t jump — the elephant.
- Elephants prefer one tusk over the other, just as people are either left or right-handed.
- The elephant trunk has more than 40,000 muscles in it!
- Elephants can swim – they use their trunk to breathe like a snorkel in deep water.
- Elephants use their feet to listen, they can pick up sub-sonic rumblings made by other elephants, through vibrations in the ground. Elephants are observed listening by putting trunks on the ground and carefully positioning their feet.
- They sometimes “hug” by wrapping their trunks together in displays of greeting and affection. (I WANT AN ELEPHANT HUG)
- Elephant feet are covered in a soft padding that help uphold their weight, prevent them from slipping, and dull any sound. Therefore elephants can walk almost silently!
- Elephants are highly sensitive and caring animals. if a baby elephant complains, the entire family will rumble and go over to touch and caress it.
- Elephants have large, thin ears. Their ears are made up of a complex network of blood vessels which regulate an elephant’s temperature. Blood is circulated through their ears to cool them down in hot climates.