In Memory of an Extraordinary Baby Elephant

When we first got her

Shay and Chizi


Adoring Children


On Saturday July 12, 2008 our precious baby elephant Chizi stopped breathing at 3am.  We would like to thank all of you that have helped us try our very best to raise Chizi for the past 18 months.  She was truly extraordinary and touched each of our lives in very special ways.  We will all miss her dearly and never forget the memories she imprinted in our minds.  For those of you that want a bit of history here it is:

In January of 2007 National Parks and Wildlife Authority of Zimbabwe phoned us about an orphaned baby elephant near Chizarira National Park.  We of course took off and made the 7 hour trek to do whatever we could.  We were able to successfully rescue Chizi who had been abandoned by her herd when they were crop raiding in the nearby communities.  As with all baby elephants we rescue, it was a very tough first month to keep Chizi alive.  The stress and shock of being abandoned and then moved is always a massive challenge to overcome.  

After the initial shock wore off we found ourselves with a very undernourished baby elephant, who despite everything we did just would not drink very much of our milk formula.  Despite us changing everything we could think of to try and get Chizi to drink we still were not having much success.  We E-mailed and phoned all the veterinarians we could think of.  Then we tried all the other elephant operations in Africa to see if they had any suggestions. 

Over time, with huge vitamin additives, and a massive formula change, we were slowly able to get Chizi to drink more.  Nontheless, we still had problems with her gaining any weight and growing.  After many fecal, blood, and every other type of test we could think of, Chizi was identified as having a pancreatic problem.  She was put on a heavy dosage of medication in each bottle to assist with her digestion.  At a cost of close to $100 per day just for the medication we were slowly able to get Chizi up to the normal drinking rate compared with other baby elephants we had raised. 

At the one year marker Chizi was doing ok with her consumption of milk formula, but her growth in a years time was only 3 cm.  Not what we would expect for a baby elephant.  Additionally, as an orphan she did not have a herd to identify with and basically teach her how to be an elephant.  We tried putting her with each of the two herds we had, but with recent births in both herds, some of the female elephant were aggressive towards Chizi in protection of their own babies. 

Throughout the entire time we have had Chizi we have struggled to get her to eat solid grass, leaves and branches.  She would happily pull up the grass or the leaves and chew them, but would never swallow them.  Over the past few months Chizi has slowly been much more active, using cooler boxes as scratching posts and soccer balls, chasing warthogs, and getting into as much trouble as a baby elephant possibly could at any given time. 

With the increase in Chizi’s activity level, she also started trying to be with the other elephant more frequently.  Normally, during rides Chizi would walk at the back of the herd with her handlers.  However, recently she would run away from her handlers at top speed to try and be in the middle of the herd during the rides.  We would often have to chase after her and physically stop her.  For us this was one of the most difficult obstacles.  It would also be the cause of her death. 

On the morning of Friday July 11th, when we were training the elephant on the new route they would take to walk to our new facility, Chizi got in between a mother and her baby and the mother came after Chizi.  Though Chizi’s physical injuries were not life threatening and we were able to immediately treat her, the psychological trauma and shock were too much too bear.  We all held her throughout the day on Friday and into the early morning of July 12th.  During her sleep that morning she simply stopped breathing. 

For us, Chizi’s death leaves a massive hole in all of our hearts.  She was an extraordinary little elephant, and we will never forget her.  We hope she is now in peace and happy that she can be with other elephant.