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Our Projects: Zambia - Kafue Conservation Project incorporating the Elephant Orphanage and Muzovu Awareness Projects

Daily walks with their keeper The boma - home to the orphan elephants Tafika enjoys a slide Simon King with Nkala in Zambia Education plays a key role in Zambia
Location: Zambia
DSWF supported since: 1984
Project Summary: Zambia is home to DSWF’s longest standing project and we now support the Kafue Conservation Project, set up by local NGO Game Rangers International (GRI) and have established Zambia’s first elephant orphanage.
"When I first visited Zambia in the early 1960s it was home to 250,000 elephants and 3,500 black rhinos. Today fewer than 25,000 elephants survive and all of its rhinos were lost. Sadly poaching continues today with the tragic results of orphans such as Chamilandu and Chodoba. We are totally dedicated to saving these babies but more importantly the wider park protection programme which will ensure wildlife survival and benefits to the wonderful Zambian people."
David Shepherd, CBE

June 2014: A big day for little elephants

May 2014: New outer boma marks next step in release programme

Feb 2014: Chodoba  moves towards a wild future

Volunteering opportunities at the project in 2014

Meet the EOP elephants by opening the pdf (below left)

During the ‘poaching wars’, which reached their catastrophic peak in the 1970s and ‘80s , all of Zambia’s native rhinos were wiped out and over 90% of its elephants were slaughtered. In 1989 the international ivory trade was finally banned and elephant numbers in most range states started to slowly recover as a direct result.

Over a long history of support in Zambia, David and latterly through DSWF has mostly supported anti-poaching operations; for example in 1990 embarking on a major conservation project in the Lower Zambezi, providing vital vehicles, boats and uniforms plus rations and fuel for the anti-poaching teams. In 1992 when the Government burned its 12 ton ivory stockpile in a bold gesture to support the international ivory ban and stamp out poaching, DSWF provided substantial funds to step up anti-poaching operations in some of the most remote and depleted parks. The same year, DSWF supported an enforcement conference resulting in the Lusaka Agreement and Africa's first-ever international Task Force directed at fighting wildlife crime across international borders. DSWF also established and supported the 'Investigations & Intelligence Unit' ( IIU ) and related anti-poaching activities which over the years has been successful in intercepting large seizures of ivory and other illegal wildlife products, bound mainly for the Far East.

However, the recent international decision for a partial lifting of the ivory ban to allow selected sale of ivory stockpiles has re-opened the illegal markets and poaching has increased once again across all range states including Zambia. The prospect of a return to large-scale illegal ivory trading which in turn, is providing substantial opportunities for the laundering of illegal ivory, is very much a reality. As its elephants continue to be targeted, Zambia’s porous borders and lack of resource will simply not be able to contain the potential epidemic The slaughter also leaves behind young orphans whose survival prospects until now have been remote.

Kafue  National Park, the second largest park in Africa, offers one of the most pristine wildlife habitats for elephants and over 50 other species in Zambia.  The former President of Zambia, Rupiah  Banda , referred to the  Kafue  as the ‘lungs’ of Zambia,  recognising  the importance of protecting this precious natural resource. However,  Kafue’s  wildlife, including its elephants, remains vulnerable and until protection can be improved there is little hope of reintroducing black rhino.

Working with the authorities, DSWF and Game Rangers International (GRI) started the Kafue Conservation Project ( KCP ) which aims to stop poaching and therefore minimize its devastating and costly impact on wildlife populations and local communities and suppress the increasing illegal wildlife trade currently being experienced in Zambia. The project is based in South Kafue and encompasses two main components; proactive species protection through a special anti-poaching unit, ranger training and welfare support and the elephant orphanage project to rescue, rehabilitate and release elephants orphaned as a direct result of poaching.

Founded in 2008 the Elephant Orphanage Project ( EOP ) has been built and developed by the project to include two main sites, the Nursery Facility in Lilayi and the Release Facility in Kafue NP. It all started with an elephant called Phoenix who was rescued by DSWF in February 2001 when, just weeks old, she was found trying to suckle from her dead mother. Against all the odds, Phoenix pulled through and became the catalyst of this exciting new project. Shortly after her successful release in the Kafue , Phoenix contracted bilary , previously unrecorded in elephants, and tragically died. The Release Facility was named Camp Phoenix in her honour and her memory lives on through the successful rescue, rehabilitation and release of new orphans which now begin their journey back to the wild at the recently completed Nursery Facility in Lilayi near Lusaka. 

Complementing DSWF’s work with EOP and KCP in Zambia, the Muzovu Awareness Project ( ‘muzovu’ means elephant in the local dialect) works to provide consistent, effective environmental education and resources to children in the Kafue National Park region. Managed by Game Rangers International (GRI), the team travels extensively to remote schools across very challenging terrain, delivering environmentally themed lessons and materials to 20 rural schools each quarter. Over 3,000 children are given the opportunity to learn about the importance of wildlife and its habitat in this way.

The themes and education materials, which change each quarter, have included: S.O.S. - highlighting the plight of endangered species, specifically those found in the area; and Living with wildlife - encouraging ways of living in harmony with alongside wildlife, including dispelling negative myths about local wildlife.

The team is developing school visits to Lilayi Elephant Nursery, where orphan elephants are intensively cared for following their rescue. This unique encounter provides an inspiring experience which aims to spark children’s interest in wildlife and the environment and how they too can help and live in harmony with wild elephants.

It is also hoped that while conservation grows as an employer locally, the team will provide children with both the enthusiasm and skills they need to pursue a career in this area.

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