Orphaned elephants in Zimbabwe are released back into the wild (VIDEO)

Six orphaned savanna elephant calves returned to their roots in a protected forest reserve near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

The calves were rescued by Wild is Life (WIL) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) from life-threatening situations after being orphaned in the wild.

The baby elephants are named Marsie, Jack, Johnnie, Tessa, Mana and Amira. Their rescuers say they were saved from muddy waterholes during severe drought between 2018 and 2019. Their mothers had either died or abandoned them. Jack and Mana were attacked by hyenas and lions.

For about three years, each calf received constant care at the IFAW-Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery (ZEN) Project rehabilitation center outside the capital Harare. The animals have been transported 900 kilometers from Harare to the Panda Masuie Forest Reserve.

WIL representatives said the 900-kilometer journey has allowed the three to five year old calves to begin the second phase of their lives, learning to thrive on their own back in the wilderness.

When they arrived at night at their new home, the calves were offloaded into an enclosure at the IFAW-ZEN Project soft release facility. They were introduced to nine older rescue elephants at sunrise.

The calves and adult elephants will be taken on daily bush walks, interact with wild elephants, and, if all goes well, someday wander off and join a herd or form their own. One of the calves wears a tracking collar.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said the savanna elephant was “endangered” and the much smaller, lighter forest elephant was “critically endangered” – its highest category before extinction in the wild.

The IUCN used data showing that the populations of Africa’s savanna elephants decreased by at least 60% over the last 50 years, and the number of forest elephants had fallen by 86% over 31 years.

African elephants can live up to 70 years.

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