As I stepped off the plane in Lusaka back in August I was thrown straight back into the unpredictable world of Game Rangers International (GRI). Expecting to be met by Sport (head of GRI) and travel with him to the Elephant Orphanage Project‘s (EOP) release facility in Kafue National Park, I was instead greeted with a message saying they had been called to rescue yet another young elephant near Livingstone.
Twenty-four hours later we did meet, after an all night rescue for Sport and his team and a nine hour bus ride for myself and Seb. The meeting place was one of my favourite places in Africa, a small path that meanders its way along the edge of the river. A Fish Eagle was soaring above and you could feel the excitement within the group as we walked, the quiet chatter also had a tinge of nervousness, as the dusty red light of dusk was beginning to build in the air. Within a few minutes we arrived at our destination, a thatched building stemming from a huge tree overlooking a shallow watering hole. On the horizon was a train of small elephants and in the boma was the EOP’s latest arrival, Mosi, rescued the night before and standing at 119cm to the shoulder. We were about to witness something very special; the meeting between elephants. Like rays of light breaking through the clouds at the end of a thunder storm, trunks reached out from Chamilandu and her adopted brothers and sisters to welcome the new arrival into their family and end the dark cloud that had been surrounding Mosi since losing his family. With each passing minute you could see the warmth of life come back into him, while I myself felt very privileged to be witnessing first-hand the work of Rachael and her team in its purest and most heart warming form.
Over the next few days I witnessed the love shown by elephants and the importance it holds within their family life. Mosi grew with confidence, as food and milk saw him regain his strength from the emaciated state in which he had been found in. By day three he was joining the herd on their daily walks through Kafue, part of their rehabilitation back into the wild. However despite this achievement, it is a success that I wish wasn’t necessary. Elephants should not require rescuing, as in a perfect world animal-human conflict would not exist!
Finding a solution to this is something that we as a human race need to do fast, as the ivory trade and a variety of other problems continue to spiral out of control. The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation are committed to finding such a solution and central to it is education and the purpose of my visit to Kafue. Kate Brill, part of the GRI team is developing an amazing conservation awareness program that already reaches 3,000 children in Zambia (Muzovo Project) and I hope to help her and the DSWF take education to the next level. We hope to improve its impact and understanding with the pupils in Zambia and also spread the message globally. The education curriculum plan has ten strands to it:
- Understanding the Elephant Orphanage Project
- Endangered Wildlife
- Living with Wildlife
- Bush Fires
Each of these areas will continue to be developed to have a reality that will enable learners to make informed decisions, allowing them to act responsibly in the future. Over the coming months I look forward to sharing with you more details of this curriculum but for now I would like to finish by sharing with you Kafue’s story. He was rescued in the National Park that will form the second leg of our cycle ride next August, after travelling 200km from Livingstone, the area where Mosi, Batoka and Suni were rescued.
DOB: July 2009
Kafue is the first orphan to be rescued within Kafue National Park and he was named after the Kafue ZAWA Scouts who captured him, after watching this little elephant alone for a few days (to ensure he was abandoned and that his herd were not nearby) ZAWA Officers captured Kafue by hand and brought him to the EOP in October 2010. At approximately 1 year and 3 months old, Kafue was suffering from malnourishment and dehydration, since he was still in need of his mother’s milk. Kafue readily took to the bottle at EOP and has demonstrated a ravenous appetite ever since. His condition has improved dramatically and he is growing nicely. He was a very wary and frightened little calf on arrival but he grows with confidence daily and he can now be seen happily playing and sparring with Rufunsa in the early mornings.
I must now return to training, fund raising, developing educational material and of course my day job of teaching. I hope that you continue to follow our progress and if you would like to know more please contact the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, follow us on twitter or donate towards our £20,000 fund raising target at www.justgiving.com/cyclezambia2013 or text mosi99 to 70070 plus a donation in pounds (UK only). Thank you for your support and check out @CycleZambia for an upcoming competition and fund raising events. You could also swing by our facebook group if you are that way inclined…