February 2016 – The elephant introduction programme at Abu in Botswana’s Okavango Delta continues to show evidence of its success, with the birth of a new calf in late December to the elephant cow, Naya. Naya was introduced into the wild from Abu Camp’s boma in July 2011, along with her mother, Gika. This is Naya’s first calf.
At the time of their release into the wild, researchers from conservation NGO, Elephants Without Borders, have since carefully monitored Naya and Gika’s movements and wellbeing. Each elephant was fitted with a customised satellite tracking collar to allow her movements to be recorded, so that more could be learned about the pair’s behaviour as they adapted to life in the Okavango Delta – one of the most dynamic ecosystems on Earth, and a stronghold for Africa’s elephants.
“Both Gika and Naya have now had calves in the wild. This is the hallmark of a successful reintroduction programme, as it indicates that the elephants have fully integrated into the local environment and are interacting normally with other elephants”, said Dr Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders.
Naya’s mother, Gika, was one of Abu Camp’s original ‘brat pack’ of orphaned elephants from South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Naya, whose name means ‘to give’, was born at Abu Camp in March 2003. Gika and Naya remain together in the wild, and occasionally their wanderings bring them past the Camp, which is always a cause of much excitement amongst the Abu herd.
Abu Camp has never lost sight of the vision of its founder: to return previously captive elephants to the wild, which is a key part of the Abu elephant programme. Introducing elephants into the wild not only ensures that they are where they truly belong, but permits studying the movements of individuals, which can elicit fascinating insights into the seasonal travels of the northern Botswana meta-herd of elephants – the largest remaining concentration of pachyderms on Earth. A number of wild elephants have also been fitted with satellite collars so that their movements can be compared to those of the introduced herd members.
“While their wild companions face a difficult time, the success we have had at Abu is inspiring”, commented Dr Chase, who also revealed that the Honourable Minister of the Environment, T. K. Khama, who recently visited Abu Camp, sent a message of congratulations to the Abu Camp elephant team on this notable achievement.
Click here to read more about the wild elephant herd at Abu.
Left: Naya with her new calf (photo taken from a distance to avoid disturbance). Middle: Gika and Naya visit Abu Camp. Right: Elephant experience with Abu’s resident herd.