An orphaned baby elephant has won the hearts of people throughout the world after a 577 km mercy flight across the country to rescue the stranded creature and bring her to safety.
The tiny two-month-old elephant was rescued in the South Luangwa National Park, after she was found by local residents in the bush: alone, starving and terrified.
A team from Proflight Zambia then flew into action and dispatched a 12-seater C208 Caravan aircraft to collect the elephant – named Matizye after a nearby river – and fly her to the safety of the Lilayi Elephant Nursery operated by Game Rangers International in Lusaka.
“Who said elephants can’t fly!” said Captain Emmanuel Nyirenda, who flew the 90-kg elephant to her new home along with colleague Captain David Ndumba.
“We carry thousands of passengers across the country every year to see Zambia’s fantastic wildlife and national parks, so it is only fitting that we put something back by helping little Matizye and ensuring that our natural wonders are cared for,” he added.
Matizye was originally rescued by officers from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) with support from the Conservation South Luangwa charity.
With quick action and veterinary support the calf was taken to the nearby Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust where she was cared for by Game Rangers International’s consultant vet nurse Liz O’Brien who Proflight rapidly flew to the scene.
Upon arrival she found the fragile female orphan in desperate need of help. The calf was dehydrated, stressed and showing the initial signs of shock. With some intensive care by Ms O’Brien, Chipembele’s Anna Tolan and her team, the calf was in the best possible hands, to give her a chance for survival.
The medical aspects of the rescue mission were overseen by DNPW senior veterinary officer Dr Innocent N’gombwa, who assessed Matizye and ensured she was given painkillers and a mild sedative to help manage the trip.
“She was found a week ago lying in a puddle of mud. I was called in by Game Rangers International to see if we could save her life. She was extremely thin; she was very dehydrated; she was extremely stressed. She had lost her mother and she was even having nightmares,” said Ms O’Brien.
While the fate of Matizye’s mother is not known, she specualted that she may have fallen victim to poachers, who are know to operate in the area.
Game Rangers International is a Zambian conservation organization, working alongside the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to protect the wildlife in Zambia through resource protection, wildlife
rescue and community outreach and education.
This is not the first time that Proflight has helped rescue a wild animal. In 2013 Proflight flew Douglas, a 120kg orphaned hippo calf to its new home and have repeatedly flown other orphaned elephants in the past to Game Rangers International who now care for 18 elephants.