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Proflight flies orphaned baby elephant to safety

IN echoes of the newly released Hollywood blockbuster movie ‘Holiday in the Wild’, which is set in Zambia, Proflight, Game Rangers International (GRI) and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) have rescued an orphaned baby elephant.

The elephant was airlifted to safety in Proflight’s Dash 8 aircraft, flying from Mfuwe to Lusaka with 40 tourists on board and then onward by road to the GRI Lilayi Elephant Nursery that was featured in the movie starring Kristen Davis and Rob Lowe released on Netflix this month.

The one-year-old elephant, which weighs around 200kg, was named Olimba Mtima – which means ‘strong heart’ – and given her own boarding pass by Proflight as she was loaded into the rear cargo hold of the plane.

After a smooth landing at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport from Mfuwe, Proflight Zambia Captain Walter Nhliziyo said: “I am very happy to play an important role in transporting the elephant calf safely to Lusaka. I love the idea of taking care of our nature and wildlife. We have tourists within and outside the country coming to view our wildlife in the national parks; it’s important that we take care of it. I look forward to seeing Olimba Mtima.”

The airline also thanked Zambia Airports Corporation (ZACL) for its support in facilitating the airlift.

It was less than a week since the rescue mission when GRI and the DNPW were called to respond to yet another tragic elephant orphaning. DNPW Rangers came across this tragic scene: a mother elephant agonisingly caught around the neck in a poacher’s snare and bearing three life-threatening gunshot wounds. Standing under her chin, her one-year-old calf stood in terror after the traumatic experience of being shot at and running for her life.

Tragically, her mother was too injured to be saved and had to be put out of her suffering. The traumatised little calf was darted with sedative and carefully moved with the help of Conservation South Luangwa (CSL) and DNPW staff to Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust (CWET), which have been a long-term first response for orphaned elephants and other wildlife in need.

The GRI vet unit were onsite to help stabilise the calf as they coordinate the logistics to relocate her to the Lilayi Elephant Nursery where she will be united with other elephants.

DNPW senior wildlife vet Dr Innocent Billy N’gombwa said: “Thank you to Proflight for the great job they are doing to save wildlife. It wouldn’t have been easy to transport the elephant calf on the road due to high stress.

“We are trying to give this calf a chance to live by rehabilitating it to an elephant orphanage based in Lusaka called Lilayi Elephant Nursery under Game Rangers International.

“We are transporting it using air transportation with Proflight Zambia. Flying the calf to Lusaka will guarantee us to get it there as soon as possible and reduce stress on the elephant.”

The Netflix conservation film ‘Holiday In the Wild’ tells the story of a young orphaned elephant calf’s rescue. GRI has rescued 49 elephant calves to date, and most have been found wandering alone, starving and distressed.

“Having been with her mother up to the bitter end she is in good physical condition, but is incredibly traumatised, frightened and confused having lost her mother and her herd due to the incessant and insatiable demand for ivory! Having lost her mother in such a brutal manner this level of anxiety is to be expected. However, she is now feeding well, and seems reassured by her carers’ presence,” said GRI.

“An elephant mother invests nearly two years in producing a calf so they do not readily abandon them. The dramatic rise in illegal ivory poaching and a variety of human-elephant conflict issues are the main cause of orphaned elephants across Africa.”

GRI works closely with the DNPW and communities living on the edge of national parks to support rural sustainable livelihoods, elephant conflict mitigations and conservation education, in addition to bolstering the law enforcement capabilities in the area to actively protect elephants and all the wildlife within the national park and its surrounding protected areas.

On the same flight, Inam Patel, a tourist from London, was impressed with the care and consideration Zambia is giving to wildlife.

“I came to Zambia for a safari from London and I am now flying back. I love nature and wildlife and seeing so much care for the young elephant indicates the reason why we come here, to see wildlife and nature,” said Patel. – Langmead.

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