John B fits Batoka's collarOn October 25, Game Rangers International and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, its partner at the Zambia Elephant Orphanage Project, successfully coordinated a dynamic veterinary procedure to fit satellite and VHF collars on five of the orphaned elephants at the Kafue Release Facility.

Of the ten orphaned elephants in the EOP Release Programme, four of them are currently free-roaming (not kept in the protective Boma at night) and one of them is likely to become independent of the orphan herd soon. To ensure their safety and confirm if their release back into the wild is successful, it is essential to monitor their movements remotely.

IFAW generously sponsored satellite collars for three of the orphans and supported the logistics for the operation, which included flying in three vets to Kafue National Park. IFAW researchers John Beecham and Miguel de Gabriel were also supporting on site with implementation as well as Post-Release Monitoring planning and data management.

As the vets arrived on site Chodoba (the oldest orphan at 10.5 years old) was the only elephant not safely secured inside the Boma and so the procedure began with him.

Chodoba's new collarChodoba was darted with an anaesthetic, had his old collar removed, the new one fitted and was then woken up, all within 30 minutes.

Under the watchful eyes of one of his keepers he was left to fully recover from the effects of the drugs whilst the team moved on to the other Release Phase elephants, who were waiting patiently inside the Elephant Boma amongst the younger orphans.

Chodoba getting upThe vet expertly darted the target elephants and as they started to go drowsy, the younger orphans were quickly led outside the boma and off for a walk as Chamilandu, Batoka, Tafika and Kafue dropped down under anaesthesia.

It was all hands on deck as EOP staff and supporters divided into specific teams to work on each elephant. They had a big job to ensure each elephant’s position was suitable (if an elephant falls in the wrong position and it is not corrected it can be life threatening), monitor vital signs, extract various bodily samples and fit the collars.

Tafika and Chamma reuniteThe operation went like clockwork with all elephants successfully collared and back on their feet within one hour.

With five satellite collars now in place, the EOP will be able to get a greater understanding of the movements of each of these elephants which will become increasingly important in the upcoming wet season when wild elephants increase their movements within the Park and it is likely the orphans will do the same.

–RM

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Article source: IFAW

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