Zim wildlife vets in desperate mission to save elephant calf

2015-09-01 22:01
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Harare - Wildlife vets in dry southern Zimbabwe managed on Tuesday to locate and load onto a plane, a painfully-thin young female elephant, which had lost the rest of its herd and was likely to be preyed upon.

The authorities had given permission for the vets to airlift the calf, which is believed to be less than 2-years-old, from the hot Beitbridge area to an elephant nursery in Harare, where it will be cared for.

"Plane loaded with Sizi elephant calf and about to get airborne. Prayers now people," said the Aware Trust, which is run by Zimbabwean veterinarians, in a Facebook update on Tuesday evening.

Sizi refers to the natural spring where the calf was first seen alone more than two weeks ago.

Earlier, Aware warned that the mission to save the elephant came "with huge risks". The trust launched a desperate appeal for funds.

"The [elephant] will have to be anaesthetised for three hours during capture and flight, and she is already compromised. We believe, however, it is her best chance of survival," Aware said on Facebook. 

The darting appears to have gone smoothly.

The lonely existence of this little elephant was first brought to the attention of wildlife lovers in mid-August by Vanessa Bristow, who lives locally and saw the elephant at the Sizi spring.

Her Facebook post about the thin elephant, "her spine quite pronounced along the top of her back", elicited an outpouring of comments and concern.

Aware said that after more than two weeks alone, the chances of the elephant's herd coming back to it had now "evaporated”.

"Although she will be eating some solids, calves are milk dependent until they're 3. Without assistance she will likely fade away or be predated on," the trust said.

The elephant nursery in Harare already cares for three young elephants, which narrowly missed being shipped to China along with 27 others from Hwange National Park in July. It also cares for a fourth elephant, Moyo.

The nursery said on Tuesday it was also preparing to airlift an elephant calf found injured and alone near Lake Kariba, northern Zimbabwe.

The rescue is due to take place on Wednesday morning.

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  southern africa  |  conservation

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