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Caring for elephant orphans

Visiting the Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery (ZEN) recently with International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) board members James Costas and Gregory Mertz, I was reminded that in the field of wildlife rehabilitation, we are always learning—from each other and from the individual animal lives we save.


I love that founder Roxy Danckwerts with such humility describes her center as a work-in-progress. The professional science of wildlife rehabilitation owes a debt of gratitude to the passion of animal rescuers like Roxy who knew they could not leave these individual animals to suffer.

These dedicated people have to do what they can to help in the moment, and they persist in learning and developing better and better protocols to ensure the best possible outcomes for these animals.


At IFAW, we have a long history of leading innovation in wildlife rehabilitation from orphan bears and tigers in Russia, orphan elephants and rhinos in India, and stranded dolphins and whales in the United States.

We have learned that each animal is unique. We develop best practices and standard protocols, but in the field, looking into the face of an elephant, giraffe or rhino, we know that they are unique and aware individuals and want to live free from suffering as we do.

We rescue individual animals, not only to help preserve the wild populations of species of risks, but also because it is the best in human nature that calls us to help ease suffering of another being whenever we can.

keepers walk with calves at Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery (ZEN).

We share these stories with you because as Roxy says, “it is about sharing the experience of these individuals with human kind. Of asking human beings to look beyond their own species … to draw a parallel between themselves and something that is wild.”

In sharing these stories, and supporting the work of ZEN, we are ensuring that there is a place for all of us, humans and wildlife, in a shared future.

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