A Day with the GRI Elephant Orphans in Zambia
Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of an orphaned elephant is like? Today we’d like to share a guest blog post from friend and fellow conservationist Stacy James of Dazzle Africa on her recent trip to the GRI Elephant Orphanage in Zambia.
At the orphanage, these precious elephant orphans are cared for around the clock. Did you know a milk dependant orphan requires special milk formula every three hours?! We are ever grateful for your continued support for Kavala and hope that you will invite a friend to consider becoming a re-occuring sponsor with us today. We have 15 re-occuring sponsors and hope to reach 50 by the end of this first quarter in March.
Each November, after spending an awe-inspiring week of Safari at the Mfuwe Lodge, we leave the South Luangwa National Park and head to our next favorite spot, the Lilayi Lodge and Game Ranger’s International, Lilayi Elephant Nursery.
The Lilayi Elephant Nursery is a short drive from Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia and is a haven for young elephants that have lost their mothers, mostly due to poaching or human conflict.
I often have mixed emotions as we drive past their stables on our way to the lodge. Who doesn’t love baby elephants? But unfortunately these babies are orphans. Bottle-fed by dedicated keepers who care for them around the clock, but never fully replace their own mothers.
Upon arrival, a sunset-stroll through the lodge’s game park, a great Zambian dinner, (a little wine) and cozy beds…we’re always anxious to start the new day and partake in the nursery’s daily guest viewing.
We’re able to watch the baby elephants from anobservation deck as they come running in from their morning walk to find their much loved, baby elephant sized, bottles of milk.
This year, after watching them savor their last drops of milk, the babies played and played, rolled in the mud, challenged each other to be king of the (very small) hill, chased, charged and in general thoroughly entertained us!
Photographs shared from Stacy James
And even though I quickly gain an affinity for each orphan, I have to say I’m continuously rooting for the underdog…the baby elephant Suni, who had a tragic beginning to life, but is now happy, well adjusted and has a one of a kind crafted leg brace to help her walk.
So even though each of these elephants has had a rough start to life, thanks to Game Ranger’s International, they have been given a second chance to be reared by caring human keepers, starting off this journey at Lilayi Elephant Orphanage and then to Kafue National Park to their release facility and eventually live out their lives amongst wild elephant herds.
This has become a regular stop for us while in Zambia and of course we hope that one day, there won’t be a need for an elephant orphanage. That poaching will become a word of the past and all baby elephants will live out their lives with their elephant mothers.
Stacy James is the Executive Director of Dazzle Africa, a U.S.based 501c3 Charity that hosts safaris to Zambia every November, and supports conservation and educational programs in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. www.dazzleafrica.org