First Zambian orphaned elephant to deliver a wild-born baby

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is delighted to announce that Chamilandu, one of the first rescues of the Game Rangers International Elephant Orphanage Project (GRI-EOP) has had her first calf, a healthy male.

Having roamed free in Kafue National Park for the past four years, Chamilandu returned to the elephant boma during lunchtime earlier this week. The team at GRI-EOP had known for some time that she was pregnant and had been waiting in anticipation. The entire camp watched in wonder and amazement as, after a few stretches and signs of discomfort, she rapidly gave birth to this beautiful little calf.

Without mature females around to support her at this critical time, Chamilandu returned to her ‘safe place’ in order to give her new baby the best chance of survival. She and the team, who have cared for her these past 11 years, worked together to assist her baby to stand and guide him to drink. These precious moments are monumental in the project’s history and reduced the team of rangers to tears of sheer joy.

The entire orphan herd showed huge interest and excitement to this teeny tiny addition as they welcomed back their beloved Matriarch. As the eldest elephant in the herd at 13 years old, she has been instrumental in mothering every orphan that has come along. In a way, she has been preparing for this moment for the last 11 years, and to see her nurturing her very own wild-born baby is wonderful to see.

This exciting milestone is the result of an 11-year journey for GRI and DSWF. This momentous event has been invaluable to the researchers who work full-time at Camp Phoenix studying animal behaviour and how the released orphans interact with wild herds. This will provide important scientific data to other researchers and conservationists around the world.

"My father would have been so proud of this awesome birth which gives us all such hope for the continuation of his legacy into the future and the ongoing success of this project."
Melanie Shepherd, David Shepherd's daughter

The birth of this calf is particularly special to DSWF as Chamilandu was impregnated by a wild bull on the exact day of David Shepherd’s death in September 2017. Many at the orphanage saw this as a sign of David’s spirit returning to say goodbye one last time.

“On the very same day that David quietly slipped away, a big bull elephant walked right into Camp Phoenix, something which had never happened before. He sought out Chamilandu and he mounted her in full view of all the Keepers.

“The old bull elephant stuck around for a few days, staying close to his new-found love. His uncanny presence caused much speculation amongst the staff that David’s spirit had in fact returned in the shape of the bull elephant. It warms my heart to believe this to be true.”
GRI CEO Sport Beattie speaking at the DSWF Wildlife Ball at the Dorchester in 2017.

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