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Ivory poaching has spread like a virus in Africa. One elephant is killed for their ivory every 15 minutes; if we allow this slaughter to continue, scientists predict this iconic species will be extinct within the next two decades.
Not only does poaching claim the lives of adult, ivory bearing elephants, but it also leaves elephant calves as orphans in their wake. Like a human child, elephant calves rely on their mother’s milk for nourishment for the first months of life and will not survive if they are not properly looked after.
When poachers kill a mother elephant, her baby will remain by her side for days, in mourning. A calf cannot survive without a mother. Traumatized by the loss, they will wander around in confusion until they eventually starve to death; this is all for the sake of a pair of tusks to make jewelry and trinkets.
Thankfully, the amazing team at the Elephant Orphanage Project in Zambia (EOP) is working to rescue orphaned elephants and give them another chance at life. The slaughter of elephants will only stop when we put an end to the ivory trade. While this may take years to accomplish, organizations like EOP are working to ensure that baby elephants survive and go on to conserve this vital species.
Established by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, in collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Zambia Wildlife Authority, the EOP is the first rehabilitation center for orphaned elephants in the Southern Africa region.
Rescuing Orphaned Elephants
At EOP, young elephants undergo intensive care after they’ve been rescued. Most of the calves have witnessed their mother’s death or have in some way been physically separated from their herd, which makes the likelihood that they’ve sustained injuries or trauma much higher. To make sure these babies recover as quickly as possible, physical examinations, wound dressing and dehydration treatment is carried out immediately.
Baby elephants are extremely emotional and impressionable creatures so they need round the clock care and comfort once they reach the orphanage. Sadly, young elephants can suffer extreme behavioral problems and a condition similar to post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being separated from their families. Luckily, the sanctuary’s expert staff is constantly available to take distressed little ones out for walks or sit near their stables at night.
As the babies regain their strength and confidence they are assimilated into the herd with other orphans. Getting to interact with other elephants gives them a chance to learn proper socialization and behaviors that will serve them in the wild.
EOP’s ultimate goal is to rehabilitate calves and release them into a wild herd in a protected area. Once the calves have been weaned from milk they are sent toKafue National Park. Here they will join the older orphaned elephants and can spend their days roaming for miles around the park enjoying their freedom.
Urgent Help is Needed
Not long ago, an engine fire destroyed the orphanage’s only truck that was used to rescue the baby elephants. Without it, the rescue team has been rendered unable to rescue elephants and carry out vital daily operations, like obtaining medical supplies and food.
“This is a crisis situation,” IFAW stated in a press release. “Without a vehicle, young orphaned elephants cannot be quickly rescued from remote wild areas, and some may not get the help they need in time. We can’t let that happen. We can’t afford to let something as simple as a truck be a deciding factor in whether a baby elephant lives or dies.”
EOP is in desperate need of donations to help get the center operating up to speed. Baby elephants consume around 20 pints of milk a day, so a delay in picking up supplies hinders the orphanage’s ability not only rescue new elephants but feed their current residents.
You can help EOP raise money for a new truck by clicking here. We have put the elephant species in dire straits so it is up to us to help them recover in any way that we can.
Image source: Mariamichelle