It’s an exciting time when the efforts of the team are paying off, to see the elephants living back in the wild where they belong.
Of the 14 elephants in the care of the IFAW-supported GRI-Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP), currently five of them are considered to be in the ‘Release Phase’ of their rehabilitation. As with most things relating to elephant rehabilitation this process is gradual and we have seen these older elephants coming and going from the EOP’s Kafue Release Facility for some time.
November 2015 marked a milestone for Tafika who, at 7 years old, joined the Release Herd and spent many days and nights away from the safety of the Elephant Boma (a large predator proof enclosure used by the orphans at night). However both he and Chamilandu, (9yrs,10mos) the herd’s matriarch, rejoined the younger orphans in December and have been staying with them ever since. The three bolder and more confident elephants, Chodoba (10yrs,10mo), Batoka (7yrs,10mos) and Kafue (6yrs,7mo) have remained ‘wild’ since their satellite collars were fitted in October 2015.
Ever since the Release Herd was formed in 2015 the staff have monitored their progress and always known the orphans to remain together. As a small herd they have more confidence to roam further from the Release Facility as their safety from predators improves with numbers, and this is quite significant since the orphans are relatively small sub-adults with little previous experience in predator avoidance.
READ: Zambia’s orphan elephants reunite one early morning
The three males were last seen on 23rd December enjoying the recent flush of vegetation in the Kalenji forest, although we receive daily GPS information as to their whereabouts. Eleven days ago the team picked up interesting signals. The GPS showed Batoka about 30km south of Chodoba and Kafue!
The Monitoring team immediately headed out to track Batoka. Due to dense vegetation and the fact that Batoka had crossed a river, the team couldn’t find him. They did, however, find his footprints amongst those of a wild herd.
Based on the amount of time Batoka has already spent away from his siblings and his interest in his current location, we suspect that Batoka has in fact joined up with wild elephants. Whilst we are surprised that he has left Chodoba and Kafue so soon, it is an important step that brings Batoka closer to living fully independent as a wild elephant and we will be monitoring his progression carefully.
Article source: IFAW