The Story of Moyo the Elephant: Orphaned elephant in Zimbabwe becomes wildlife protection ambassador
Fighting elephant poaching continues to be an uphill battle. In west Africa, the elephant population has been virtually wiped out. So now poachers are turning to eastern African countries, leaving behind vulnerable elephant orphans. But there is one NGO in Zimbabwe that's dedicated themselves to saving these helpless creatures.
This is the story of Moyo, a rescued elephant in Zimbabwe.
ROXY DANCKWERTS, FOUNDER THE ZIMBABWE ELEPHANT NURSERY "So Moyo is a very iconic little elephant. She is probably one of the smallest elephant cubs ever to be rescued. She came to us when she was about three to four days old. We weighed 56 kilos, and normally an African elephant cub weighs about 90 kilos. So she was very very small. I slept with her, I was with her 24 hours a day, and I think that's part of the reason why she managed to pull through."
The Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery, set up by a local NGO called Wild Is Life, is located in the country's capital of Harare.
YANG CHENGXI HARARE "Every year, hundreds of young elephants are orphaned across the African continent. These elephants rarely have a chance of survival in the wild and are more often than not, left for dead."
ROXY DANCKWERTS, FOUNDER THE ZIMBABWE ELEPHANT NURSERY "We rescue babies, and we grow them, rehabilitate them and re-wild them. We are trying to create a culture where people care."
Today, Moyo is healthy, playful, and has become some kind of ambassador to the nursery.
ROXY DANCKWERTS, FOUNDER THE ZIMBABWE ELEPHANT NURSERY "She's a real little princess. But she's the most wonderful animal. She is gentle, calm, very very nurturing to the other elephants that come into the nursery. She is also very good with people."
She and the other orphaned elephants here have formed an unlikely family.
FORBES DANCKWERTS THE ZIMBABWE ELEPHANT NURSERY "You'll see that all of them are trying to find their place. Moyo is about four and a half years old now. She's having to take on a lot of responsibility for such a young animal, almost becoming a matriarch at the very young age. When you see the elephants walking, Moyo is at the front, Kora's at the back, and the two young ones are at the middle. I think that's what makes this herd very special. We as humans are also beginning to learn so much about how important family dynamics are."
But unfortunately, they're not much more than objects of money in the eyes of ivory dealers. Zimbabwe has a serious poaching problem, some regions are losing as much as 75% of the elephant population over the past 10 years. Danckwerts believes China's decision to ban ivory sales by 2018 could become a major turning point.
ROXY DANCKWERTS, FOUNDER THE ZIMBABWE ELEPHANT NURSERY "So this is the story of Wild Is Life. These pictures show when the Chinese president, President Xi and his wife Madam Peng came to visit Wild Is Life. The president just loved animals, and he just had this wonderful smile on his face. He was really excited to meet Moyo. He was really concerned about the ivory problem. Banning the domestic ivory trade in China was a huge huge step for the world that China is making this move."
The nursery is developing a protected area where their big elephants can be trained to reintegrate back into the wild. That's where Moyo will hopefully end up one day. To all the people at the nursery, it will be an emotional and difficult send-off.
ROXY DANCKWERTS, FOUNDER THE ZIMBABWE ELEPHANT NURSERY "But we will cross that bridge when we come to it."