Seven Orphaned Elephants Who Lost Their Mothers & Herds At The Hands Of Humans Will Soon Find Freedom In Zimbabwe

Bumi, Sally, Coco, Unity, and Sienna eat vegetation in the boma immediately after arrival at Panda Masuie. Photo: Tyson Mayr / IFAW

Seven orphaned elephant calves rescued years ago from traumatic circumstances have moved 1,100 kilometers closer to freedom after their translocation from Harare to a release site near Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. 

Between three and 13 years old, the elephants have all been rescued and raised by the IFAW-Wild is Life elephant nursery in Harare. Some were saved as newborn calves, and all received intensive care after losing their mothers and herds, mostly from human causes.

“Each elephant rescued by Wild is Life has survived despite immense challenges—all have suffered great emotional trauma from the loss of their mothers and herds and, in some cases, terrible injuries. They have received hands-on care at the project ever since,” said Roxy Danckwerts, Executive and Founder of Wild is Life (WIL). 

The elephants were transported by truck on an arduous 17-hour journey by road to the Panda Masuie Forest Reserve on Zimbabwe’s western border. This second rehabilitation stage is vital to reintroducing the elephants into the wild, where they can integrate and eventually join established wild herds migrating through the area.

Unfortunately, Moyo, a female elephant and the first elephant calf rescued by Wild is Life over nine years ago, suffered some injuries en route and is under veterinary treatment.

The elephants are the third group translocated by IFAW and WIL to the IFAW-supported release facility in Panda Masuie. The 85,000-acre² protected habitat forms part of the Kavango Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area (TFCA) and provides a haven for rescued and wild elephants.

“This is why we do the work—to see wild animals rescued and successfully rehabilitated to take their first steps back to where they belong in the wild,” said Neil Greenwood, Wildlife Rescue Director at IFAW.

“Years of knowledge, experience and work have been devoted to creating a successful project for orphaned elephant calves to gain the strength and skills needed to thrive independently,” continued Greenwood.

The IFAW-WIL project is Zimbabwe’s only rescue, rehabilitation and release for elephants. The project is a part of IFAW’s Room to Roam initiative forming an integral role in securing landscapes and maintaining connectivity for elephants and other wildlife.

Managed by WIL Conservation Manager Jos Danckwerts, elephants at the Panda Masuie release site regularly interact with free-roaming herds, sometimes spending extended periods of time with wild elephants.

“Already two elephants rescued and released by the WIL project are showing us the success of this project. Jack and Sizi are fitted with radio collars that tell us how they, and their adopted herds, are freely moving over the borders of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia in Southern Africa,” said Greenwood.

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