The Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary and Orphanage.
Rescue – Rehabilitate – Release
At Wild Horizons the elephant’s welfare and well-being has always taken precedence and the elephant keepers have been equipped with expansive training and knowledge to ensure dignified treatment of the animals at all time.
In 1992, four elephants fondly known as “Jock”, “Jack”, “Jumbo “and “Miz Ellie” were in desperate need of a new home. They were orphans from a culling operation in Hwange National Park in 1980 and had outgrown their temporary home on a small farm in Zimbabwe.
With an uncontested, unwavering conservation ethic, Wild Horizons was identified as an ideal candidate to create a facility that would enhance the lives of the founding four elephants and provide a space for other elephants in need of care. We were able to offer these amazing creatures a home where they are dignified and comfortable living in harmony with nature. The Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary and Orphanage was founded and has been a safe haven to a myriad of orphaned and injured elephants. We strongly believe that ultimately the best environment for all elephant is in the wild and we strive to ensure that as many animals as possible return to a wild environment. Rescue – Rehabilitate – Release.
At Wild Horizons the elephant’s welfare and well-being has always taken precedence and the elephant keepers have been equipped with expansive training and knowledge to ensure dignified care of the animals.
Wild Horizons invests extensively in the sanctuary in order to ensure that the best quality of life is offered to the elephants. In the process we aid the conservation efforts of the country and contribute to worldwide expertise on the most effective ways of caring for orphaned elephant. We work hard to raise public awareness and educate future generations about the importance of conservation. We have physically and metaphorically journeyed with these elephants and gained a unique insight along the way.
In order to safeguard and sustain the Elephant Sanctuary and Orphanage we offer non-riding elephant experiences. Our goal is to have guests spend time and connect with elephants in the most positive and natural way possible.
We work to preserve and protect both orphaned elephants and those in the wild. Several projects, in collaboration with the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, are underway to protect elephant in the Wild. A few of our projects include:-
Conservation Education Program
For many people living near Victoria Falls, wildlife is not viewed in a positive light. Many only ever see elephants when they raid their plots for vegetables, or carnivores when they are killing livestock. Wild Horizons and the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (VFWT) jointly host a weekly conservation education program in which we bring children from the surrounding areas to interact with our resident orphaned elephant and cheetah who act as wildlife ambassadors. A Wildlife ambassador is an animal that for various reasons may not be suitable for release back into the wild, and instead by sharing their rescue stories, act as ambassadors for their species in order to increase awareness of their plight in the wild. Wild Horizons and the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, host a weekly group of approximately twenty school children who interact with our wildlife ambassadors such as Sylvester the cheetah and Judge the vulture and discuss the challenges with human wildlife conflict, poaching and poisoning. These children also get the opportunity to observe an elephant herd and gain a unique insight into elephant behaviour and the challenges.
Annually over a thousand school children are transported to our facility, and treated to an educational interaction. It is amazing to see the shy and inquisitive nature of the children who have so many questions about the wildlife they live with. Many of them have misconceptions, often as a result of experiences they have encountered in their daily lives, and all of them are curious to learn more! During the discussion on wildlife, a vital part of the conversation touches on tourism and the importance wildlife plays in bringing tourists, and therefore jobs to the local area. NOTHING HAS MORE IMPACT THAN WHEN…the children see the animals up close and you can tell that the moments will last a lifetime. Ultimately these children will be responsible for the long-term sustainability of wildlife populations and natural resources. By working with children from a young age we aim to change all negative perceptions of wildlife. Conservation by the community!
Elephant Conflict Project
Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) is one of the main challenges facing wildlife and Africa’s rural populations in terms of personal security and economic loss. As human populations grow and expand and wildlife habitat becomes fragmented, the situation is projected to deteriorate.
The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust is investing heavily in mitigating HWC through our Community Guardians Program, mobile bomas and our new collaboration with Connected Conservation to research elephant-specific conflict in the Victoria Falls urban and rural areas.
Resident elephants of Victoria Falls town and selected elephants in the adjacent rural areas will be collared to assess conflict with these animals and look at a range of factors that might help mitigation strategies. Environmental factors, hormones, stress, acoustics and communications between elephant will be assessed along with a variety of mitigation methods. This data will also help provide information on corridors the elephants use in urban areas, which will be considered when planning future urban development.
Forensics And Wildlife Crime
An ever growing illegal wildlife trade is driving the need for forensic and preventive lab / field work to protect endangered species. The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust is working on a project with wildlife authorities throughout Southern Africa combating wildlife crimes; in particular, the staggering incidents of poisoning in the commercial poaching of wildlife, especially for elephant ivory.
A new focus of the laboratory will be to necropsy and test wildlife that poachers have poisoned so that we can develop scientific tests to identify poisons used. The project will also encompass training wildlife rangers on field techniques for testing for poisoning, such as the cyanide poison test shown here, and implementing proper procedures when managing crime scenes.
This project is made possible by the generous support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Rescue And Rehabilitation
At the heart of the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust’s work is rescue and rehabilitation. They have successfully rescued and released 18 animals from snares this year, and treated many other animals injured in human-induced conflict. They do whatever is humanly possible for each animal – the goal is always to release that animal back to the wild.
The VFWT found a snared elephant calf one evening, still anchored to a tree. Its panicked mother was nearby, very agitated as you can imagine! Due to these tricky circumstances, and the fact that we were darting in the dark, they immobilized both the mother and the calf to ensure the staff’s safety and that they remained together. The snares were successfully and uneventfully removed from the calf, the wounds treated and antibiotics administered. The sedation was reversed and both mom and calf calmly walked off and reunited with the herd.
We are committed to our elephants and take all steps necessary to replicate the life that they would have in the wild. The cost of caring for elephants in this manner is extremely high. The ever-increasing threats facing elephant populations in the wild today, necessitate commitment to conservation.
Our sponsorship program is aimed at those who would like to directly help ensure that our rescued elephants are well cared for and that those still living in the wild can thrive. A donation is the perfect gift for elephant lovers or a means to actively support elephant conservation. All donors will receive regular updates, keeping them in touch with the elephants and our conservation efforts in Victoria Falls.
VICTORIA FALLS WILDLIFE TRUST
In April 2008 Wild Horizons established what is now known as the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (VFWT) and through this entity funds and manpower are invested to help further the aims of wildlife rehabilitation and rescue.
As part of our social responsibility program and in conjunction with Environment Africa, an NGO involved in environmental and community based projects in the area, the VFWT exposes over 1000 school children from rural schools to the Wild Horizons elephant program annually, in an effort to educate these learners on the value of wildlife. This is a vitally important program and something we are extremely proud to be a part of.
Please see our Blog for stories on our Wild Horizons Educational Outreach Program:-