How a baby elephant got rescued in Zambia
Updated: Jul 19
Thank you Deon Lemmer for sending us this fabulous story from your trip.
In May 2021 Emma-Kate Lemmer joined the Ntanda team for a ladies trip to South Luangwa and she fell in love with Kafunta. EK booked a surprise trip for her husband Deon to return in November 2021. Here is his story.
My wife, Emma-Kate and I were on a holiday at Kafunta Safaris in South Luangwa.
On the morning of the 07 November 2021, we were wallowing in the pool to escape the heat, which was at 40^C. I was looking out onto the plateau in front of the lodge, indulging in an ice cold Mosi with one of the other visitors. I looked down the plateau towards the river bend to the left of the entertainment area and saw a female Elephant come onto the plateau with her little calf. The calf could only have been +/-2 years old, tiny little bugger. The calf was walking behind the cow and obviously struggling a little with its footing due to the large elephant/hippo foot imprints from the last rains. This was at around 11:30 in the morning.
The calf suddenly disappeared from sight, Emme-Kate, who was sitting on a deck chair, said the calf was playing in a mud pool. I noticed the mother suddenly turning around to look for her calf. She instantly ran back towards the calf and immediately started pulling at the calf with her trunk. It was then that I realized or suspected the calf was in trouble and had actually stumbled into this mud hole. The panic was setting in, the mother was trying to dig a path for the calf to climb out, to no avail. The mother continued running backwards and forwards trying everything possible. All we could see was the calf’s little trunk and now and again the top of it’s head.
At +/-12 o’clock I went to find JT, the lodge manager and told him of my concerns. The other visitors moved to the end of the chalets to a view point built up in a tree. It was virtually opposite the calf. It was blatantly obvious that my assumption was correct, the calf was in serious trouble. Concern was to get the calf out before dark, as there was a pride of Lion not far from the pit area.
The main herd of Elephant appeared and it was amazing how much concern they showed especially two of the cows. The major concern was the heat, the calf had been fully exposed to the midday sun. The main herd moved away to the water pond in front of the lodge. The other two cows joined them a little while later.
TJ contacted Conservation South Luangwa (CSL) to assist with the rescue.
Two of the lodge employees filled a bucket of water to attempt to get to the calf to cool it down. The mother moved about 200M away from the calf, the two guys ran out to the calf, probably also about 200M and threw the water over the calf. The calf called out, from what I believe was more of a fright, the mother turned and charged back to the calf. If anything besides the calf being cooled off a little, there was some humour in the guys running back for cover.
It took CSL +/- an hour and a half to get there. At this stage the calf was exhausted and the mother was walking around, obviously frustrated. They slowly approached the mother and calf in their Land Cruiser, waiting to get a clear shot at the mother. They eventually darted her, the concern was her not falling onto the calf, that would have been a major problem. When she eventually went down, they managed to roll her away from the calf. The rest of the of the rescue came down to digging mud away from the back legs, which were basically stuck like pistons in the mud. That and some serious manhandling, pushing and pulling with a rope around the calf’s hind quarters, they got it out. Once out, the calf was following everyone around while the mother was recovering from the darting.
This was finally achieved at 14:02. Buckets of water were thrown over the calf while it made its presence very well known with high pitched squeals.
All ended well and the mother and calf were reunited right next to the view point.
Besides the trauma, we all experienced a very rare occurrence which would, probably, never happen in our lives again. Thanks to Kafunta Safaris all ended well.
Read more about Conservation South Luangwa and consider donating. https://cslzambia.org
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