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Elephant Havens Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting and rescuing elephants in Botswana, has recently completed a crucial project in Nxai National Park to address a growing concern of elephant calves getting stuck in the mud at the area.
The project aimed at fixing boulders that had formed around a pan, creating a fatal mud trap for young wildlife, particularly elephant calves as the water holes dried up.
According to the foundation’s co-founder, Boago Poloko the project was initiated after they received reports of elephant calves getting stuck in the mud at Nxai Pan.” These reports were initially brought to our attention by Lawrence Lesego Droshky, who encountered two young elephant calves stuck in the mud on November 19, 2023, during a filming mission in the area. This situation was exacerbated by the fact that the mothers had abandoned the calves, leaving them in a precarious situation,” he narrated in a report.
Elephant Havens quickly mobilized resources, including chartering a helicopter, to reach Nxai Pan and rescue the calves. Upon arrival, they coordinated with Xomae staff, a local safari company, to successfully free the stuck elephant calf and reunite it with its herd.
However, Poloko indicated that the problem persisted, with another calf getting stuck in the mud just two days later and again, the foundation acted promptly, rescuing the calf with the same help of Xomae staff.
Recognising the urgency of the situation, he said the foundation, in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), decided to closely monitor the area with three members of the foundation team camping at Nxai Pan for a week to ensure that any elephant calves in distress received immediate assistance.
“Following the week-long monitoring period, the foundation engaged in discussions with the DWNP Park Manager to devise a permanent solution. It was agreed that the high banks surrounding the pan, which made it difficult for the calves to escape once inside the mud pool, needed to be addressed,” the founder narrated.
The implementation phase of the project included breaking the high banks surrounding the pan which were identified as a significant obstacle for the trapped elephant calves. Heavy machinery was used to carefully dismantle the high banks so as to create a more accessible environment for the wildlife, particularly the elephant calves, to navigate.
“Once the high banks were successfully broken down, efforts were made to ensure that the newly accessible area remained safe and navigable for the wildlife. This involved carefully monitoring the terrain to prevent the formation of new obstacles that could hinder the movement of animals in and out of the pan.”
The implementation phase of the project also involved construction of a 3km pipeline to supply water to a new pan which is a critical component of the long-term strategy to provide a sustainable water source for wildlife in the area.
Throughout the implementation phase, Poloko indicated that they maintained close coordination with DWNP for obtaining the necessary approvals, permits, and expertise required for the successful execution of the project.
He said the successful completion of the project which costed a sum of P250 000 did not only mitigate the immediate threat posed by the mud trap but it also contributed to the overall health and well-being of the park’s ecosystem.
Elephant Havens Wildlife Foundation is a non-profit organization that operates an elephant sanctuary and orphanage in Botswana. It also conducts various projects and programs to protect and conserve elephants and their habitats.