Wings Of Compassion:
Proflight And Procharter Airlift Baby Elephant To Safety

The African elephant is revered in many cultures as a symbol of strength, power, and wisdom. However, life for a lone calf can be tough and dangerous, usually resulting in its loss.

This, however, is a story of hope and how Bupe – translated as “Gift” in most local dialects – an 11-month-old baby elephant, found his way to safety thanks to a community of stakeholders who, in a heart-warming display of unity, would not give up on the little critter and instead rallied together to protect and care for the gentle soul.

Separated from his family, likely through Human-Elephant Conflict, Bupe was found alone in South Luangwa National Park, with no sign of his herd. This situation puts a young calf like him at grave risk, as he becomes vulnerable to predators without his mother’s or herd’s protective presence.

Thanks to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and Conservation South Luangwa, the little calf was rescued and initially stabilised at nearby Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust – an organisation dedicated to educating communities in Mfuwe on wildlife and environmental conservation. Game Rangers International, who operate the Elephant Nursery in Lusaka, ensured an Elephant Keeper was on site to nurture this frightened young calf until he was strong enough to be relocated to join other orphans there. With a long history of support to GRI, they reached out to ProCharter and Proflight Zambia with a request to help ferry this special cargo, and the charter and airline quickly swung into action to do all they could to ensure its survival and safety.

Anna Tolan, Founder of Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust, expressed her relief at this collaborative effort’s response and immeasurable value, stating: “To be able to do this just means the world to us.”

Bupe’s story is a testament to our boundless compassion and love for the creatures that share our planet. With the help of all the collaborators, Bupe was dispatched from Mfuwe International Airport aboard ProCharter’s Cessna Grand Caravan to Kyindu Game Ranch in Lusaka, where he was transferred to his new home in Lusaka National Park. The Mfuwe International Airport was opened in the mid-70s as a domestic airport to service the South Luangwa National Game Park – one of Zambia’s largest national parks.

Dr Lengwe Mwansa Bwalya, DNPW Wildlife Vet under the Ministry of Tourism, supervised Bupe throughout his journey and underlined the importance of safeguarding at-risk wildlife such as Bupe: “We have many elephants, many lions, but each one of these is an individual animal that matters, and if we don’t rescue the ones in need, we risk losing them as a species,” emphasised Dr Lengwe.

The final leg of Bupe’s flight was a breathtaking descent over Kyindu Game Ranch under the warm embrace of a golden sunset, where he was greeted by an excited group of caretakers and a motorcade of Land Cruiser vehicles.

Sebastian Matla, the pilot responsible for Bupe’s flight, couldn’t help but express his delight: “It was amazing flying Bupe, and I am glad it was a good and safe flight for him. We are happy to help out.”

Zambia’s wildlife is integral to the country’s economy and culture and a source of inspiration and beauty. David Oliver Munyama, Head Keeper of the GRI Elephant Nursery, also expressed his gratitude to ProCharter and Proflight for their indispensable support over the years towards such rescue operations.

Munyama highlighted the significance of the calf’s arrival at the park: “We are delighted to have Bupe here because this is where he should be for now. We have a dedicated team of professionals who will ensure he receives the utmost care through rehabilitation and preparing him for the next stage of his journey to the Kafue National Park, where we release all rescued elephants once they are old enough to be independent.”

These young calves usually spend their first three years at the Nursery while being milk-dependent.

Alongside Bupe’s inspiring journey, an equally heart-warming story unfolded of the growing bond between the calf and his primary carer, Matthews Shachishu, an elephant keeper at Game Rangers International. This bond is essential to the well-being of the calf and his smooth integration into his new family.

Night fell as Bupe finally reached his new elephant “boma” – or home – with the moon casting a gentle glow over the quiet and reflective assembly of caregivers. It was a moment of anticipation observing the little elephant explore his surroundings as he again found himself among fellow elephant orphans who would become his new ‘family’ over the next few months.

The vision for Bupe’s future is one of hope: “I want Bupe to return to the wild someday, although it will be a long journey. I hope he will once again roam freely among a wild herd in Kafue National Park, embracing the life he was born into. I am truly proud to be a part of this rescue operation,” Anna Tolan shared with optimism.

Captain Josias Walubita, Director of Flight Operations at Proflight Zambia, noted: “Proflight Zambia and ProCharter are honoured to have played a part in this extraordinary rescue mission, reflecting our unwavering commitment to wildlife conservation.”

Bupe’s story is not just about saving one lone elephant but also about inspiring a collective sense of compassion and responsibility for the incredible wildlife that graces our planet.

To follow Bupe’s journey and learn more about Zambia’s incredible wildlife, you can visit him in Lusaka National Park at the GRI Wildlife Discovery Centre, which is dedicated to bringing the story of these young elephants and a plethora of wildlife species and systems to the forefront through engaging and interactive educational displays and activities. The Centre is open daily, and you can see Bupe drinking his midday milk bottle as soon as he is recovered and integrated enough to join the rest of the herd.

The alternative 12-hour journey by road would have meant numerous stops and immense stress for the calf, while the flight lasted only 1 hour and 40 minutes, thanks to ProCharter’s timely and efficient airlift. This is the 13th elephant orphan we have flown since the Elephant Orphanage was established in 2008.

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