By Judith Sibanda
Hwange, January 25, 2016 – Parks authorities have airlifted a traumatised baby elephant to a Harare nursery after it strayed off to a residential settlement outside Hwange National Park when its mother and two other jumbos had been killed by poachers.
Wild is Life Trust and Zen revealed on Friday that the young elephant, now named Little Africa, was “was spotted running, in a mad panic, through a small town”.
“He was covered in blood, dehydrated and severely traumatised. He was being chased by people and dogs, utterly confused and terrified,” the trust said in a statement.
The young elephant was eventually subdued by a team of local residents who gave it water and washed off blood stains suspected to from its mother.
“Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) was immediately notified of the incident, and despatched a team to search for the herd, which was nowhere to be found,” the trust added.
“The calf was loaded into the Zimparks vehicle and moved to the park’s management camp, where emergency supplies for milk dependent elephant calves are in stock.”
Investigations by the Zimparks team revealed that some three elephant cows had been killed in the area by poachers.
The suspected poachers were immediately arrested but the tusks were not recovered, Wildlife is Life Trust added.
Meanwhile, Little Africa was kept at the Hwange National Park and fed the correct milk formula on an hourly basis.
The calf was housed in a warm container, bedded down with grass after spending a week before being airlifted to the Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery in Harare.
Wildlife is Life Trust thanked the pilots for executing the mission professionally.
“Finally, we were able to despatch a plane, kindly piloted by Kevin Leliard. Dr Mark Lombard and Jos Danckwerts flew up to Hwange in foul and turbulent weather, but they were flying against the clock,” the trust added.
“Time was of the essence. The Zimparks team met them at the airport and the calf was immediately put onto an IV and then loaded into the plane.
“Little Africa travelled well and walked himself off the plane, into the embrace of the anxiously waiting ZEN team.”
The calf is reportedly recovering at the nursery but was still stressed.
“Africa is thin, however, his tolerance for the milk formula is holding,” the trust said.
“It is no surprise that he has lost condition due to the stress that he has endured from losing his mother and family, entering new environments, adjusting to a new diet and the move by plane to the nursery. He has no teeth, which indicates a very young age.
“We would estimate that he is only weeks old. He has an umbilical hernia which is somewhat worrying.”
The Wild is Life said the Zimparks team defied odds to keep the calf alive.
Conservationists say there is an increase in the number of Zambian poachers roaming the Hwange National Park and the Zambezi National Park.
A number of suspected poachers have been arrested in recent weeks leading to the recovery of elephants tusks.
Close to 100 elephants have been killed by poachers in the country’s nature reserves since last year, forcing the government to deploy soldiers to fight the menace.