Zimbabwe - ZEN

Elephants in Zimbabwe are threatened by poaching and loss of their habitat. In the elephant orphanage ZEN (Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery) orphaned elephant babies are raised and later released into the wild. In cooperation with ZEN we have started our „Care for Elephants“ program.


With a donation of 50 Euro per year you are supporting an elephant calf of your choice that is meticulously hand-raised and prepared for an independent life in the wild. Your donation will benefit the elephants and provide special milk formula, feed, loving care of the keepers and veterinary care.

For your donation we will be pleased to send you a personal certificate plus photos of your chosen elephant by E-Mail. We also inform you about the welfare of your protégé. You are also welcome to visit the elephant calves at the ZEN nursery in Harare.

More about the elephant orphanage:
#JerusalemaChallenge at Wild is life/ZEN



Rescued on 18/02/2014, female. Age when rescued: 3 days

Moyo is the first elephant calf rescued by ZEN. The tiny baby was found wandering all alone on the shore of Lake Kariba. All efforts to locate her family failed. No elephants were sighted in this area. After several days alone in the bush little Moyo was followed by a pack of hyenas. ZEN decided to intervene and brought Moyo to Harare by plane.

On arrival she was tiny and weighed only 56 kg! (Healthy elephant babies usually weigh around 90 kg at birth). 

Moyo turned to a majestic young lady. She continues to nurture the youngsters and manage her herd with such grace and dignity. She is still playful, with a marvellous sense of humour. That little glint in her eye almost always gives away her next move! Whether it be climbing over a fence and racing off across the lawn to the kitchen, or stealing a blanket from one of smaller calves and throwing it over her head, she keeps the ZEN-Team constantly entertained.

Please support Moyo with a donation of 50 Euro per year. 



Rescued on 11/07/2015, male. Age when rescued: 4 years

Kukurukura a.k.a. Kura, which means “to tell a story”, was part of a group of 3 elephants given to ZEN for rehabilitation and eventual release by ZimParks. These 3 elephants had a very traumatic experience before they arrived in the nursery. They all suffered severe injuries prior to their arrival at ZEN and hence were not suitable for relocation.

Kura sustained a severe injury to his back left leg. Soon after he arrived an X-Ray was arranged in order to determine the extent of the injury. His leg was shattered in two places and has fused around the entire joint. He still manages to walk fine, although avoiding to bend his knee a lot. He is the dominant bull in the herd and possibly the most complex individual. Initially he was very wary of people, in the meantime he is rebuilding his trust.

Dearest Kura is growing at speed! He is honestly one of the gentlest elephants. He is wise and kind, playing uncle to the young bulls in the herd. They absolutely adore him! Kura is an integral member of our herd at the Nursery.

Please support Kura with a donation of 50 Euro per year. 



Rescued on 20/07/2018, female. Age when rescued: 2 years

Marsie was saved from certain death by the ZimParks and Wildlife Management Authority. The young calf was found wandering alone close by a watering hole, bravely fighting off  hyenas that were surrounding her. It is assumed that her mother was killed by poachers near the border of a national park. ZimParks mobilised their team after having watched this young elephant for some time.

When the rescued calf was brought to the ZEN nursery she was starved and had an abcess on her behind. Greatly helped by the gentle and loving support of Moyo and Kura and by the selfless care of the Zen team the little elephant has settled down well in the small herd. In May 2021, Marsie moved to the reintroduction station in Panda Masuie, near Victoria Falls: read more here: New home for elephant orphans at Victoria Falls

Please support Marsie with a donation of 50 Euro per year. 




Rescued end of July 2018, female. Age when rescued: 8 months

Unity comes from the Umfurudzi Wildlife Area. There was a severe drought in this area last year, which also affected the elephants. Unity received too little milk from her mother and was eventually rejected by her. However, elephants of this age urgently need milk to survive. When she was admitted to the Nursery, she was malnourished and disturbed. Fortunately, a special, very nutritious milk formula was found that does not cause diarrhea and which Unity tolerates well. She has gained over 10 kg within four weeks and dominates the Nursery with her strong character!

The little fighter is not out of danger yet and will stay in intensive care for a few more months. But with the loving care of her caregivers and the collective love of the other rescued elephants, she has made great strides. Moyo has taken on the role of substitute mother for Unity and is doing an excellent job!

Unity is Moyo’s right hand lady and will not be separated from her. She sleeps next to Moyo and copies everything that she does. She is also learning to “mother” the younger calves and has a close companion in Amira. Unity is calm and easy elephant, who loves the handlers and most especially, loves swimming too. Her tusks have erupted very late though, which is strange.

Please support Unity with a donation of 50 Euro per year. 



Rescued on 27/11/2018, female. Age when rescued: 7 months

Coco's mother was killed by a bus in Zimbabwe's northwestern region. For the little Coco this must have been a horrible experience. The traumatized calf ran screaming and fearful and panic-stricken. Fortunately, rangers from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority made it quickly to the scene and managed to capture Coco before it fell prey to predators. The baby was stabilized in the nursery and also receives a special, particularly nutritious milk formula. The two older orphans Moyo and Unity have taken the little Coco lovingly into their care.

Little Coco is a very complicated young elephant. Having suffered the most tremendous trauma as a small calf, watching her mother being killed and butchered after a bus accident. She was also injured in the accident and her jaw was fractured. We have really struggled with milk formula with Coco, who has a highly sensitive gut and will only tolerate the hypoallergenic formula. If she gets the normal formula, she immediately starts diarrohea. Coco is sensitive and lacking in confidence, but has teamed up with Mana and Tessa, also rescues from last year. She has a solemn look about her, with deep wrinkles on her forehead.

Please support Coco with a donation of 50 Euro per year.  




Rescued beginning of December 2018, male. Age when rescued: a few days.

At the end of November 2018, a baby elephant saw the light of day on the banks of the Limpopo River. On shaky legs and with still poor eyesight, the little one struggled to keep up with the herd. But the scorching heat took its toll: In order to survive, the elephant family had to find water quickly. The desperate mother had to choose between the collective need of the herd and her baby - the baby stayed behind. Alone, traumatized and hungry. But the little fighter stayed on his feet and had no intention of giving up.

Fortunately, Limpopo was found in time, taken to a farm and provided with lifesaving water. Lovingly cared for and protected, the little one was finally able to sleep peacefully. The next morning he was flown north and taken to the nursery in Harare. Here he is surrounded by other elephant children, who feed him as their nest-hook. Also by the caregivers, the small Limpopo is cared for.

This little chap is the clown of the herd. He loves everybody, elephants and humans alike! When photographed, he generally has a big smile on his face. He also adores Kura, who is certainly the big brother with whom he can tussle.

Please support Limpopo with a donation of 50 Euro per year. 



Rescued in December 2018, female. Age when rescued: a few days.

Kadiki was rescued from the Mana Pools National Park. She was first seen wandering around a local operators camp, alone and utterly miserable. She was offered water by a kind young lady, who contacted ZEN to ask for assistance. As it was already dark, very little could be done. Clearly there was no mother and no herd in the vicinity. With the drought conditions and severe heat, it is possible that her mother had died or had left the calf soon after the birth. The following morning a search party was sent out to find this little calf. Once in Harare, her wounds were closely examined, she had lacerations and bite wounds that required immediate treatment. We believe that Kadiki was new born, judging from the state of her umbilicus. This little elephant weighed 66kg on arrival at ZEN, the normal birth weight of African elephant is around 105kg, so the team knew they had to fight for the survival of this little calf.

Kadiki is an incredibly warm, funny and gregarious elephant. She will take a bottle from any of the handlers, but has a temper on her, if she doesn’t get her own way. She is another keen swimmer! If she doesn’t get a chance to go to the dam for her daily swim, she comes home and climbs into the water troughs or the duck ponds!

Please support Kadiki with a donation of 50 Euro per year. 



Rescued in December 2019, male. Age when rescued: a few weeks.

Bumi was saved when the drought was severe in late 2019. He was found abandoned in a dry river bed where he was stuck between some rocks. A group of residents, supported by rangers, released him from his plight. He was subsequently passed into the care of the Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit (BHAPU), which lovingly cared for this injured and desperate little soul until a rescue team could be dispatched. Bumi suffered severe sunburn on his ears and body after spending many hours in the sun. He was a very sick little elephant, but he had an irrepressible will to live and he fully recovered after a few months. 

Today Bumi is a strong, healthy little elephant who has made friends with the little elephant lady Kadiki. The two are inseparable. Recently they started to join the large kindergarten herd. There they learn to integrate into the herd dynamics and acquire new skills until they can be released into the wild again.

Bumi is so kind and thoughtful, ever loving too. He is never first into the mud or the water and will often hang back until he is sure that it is the right thing to do! Once in, however, he has great fun with the smaller elephants. He tends to stand near Kura, copying his moves, like pushing trees and pulling down branches.

Please support Bumi with a donation of 50 Euro per year. 





Adopted 10/29/2021, female Age at rescue: approximately 18 months.

Sally was spotted all alone on the banks of the Zambezi River. She apparently had a serious injury to her ear, which she was trying to clean up in the crocodile-infested river. The sighting was immediately reported and rescue efforts were initiated. The shy and nervous calf was quickly located and anesthetized by the ZEN team. The little one's ear was nearly amputated by a thick cable loop. She also had deep bite wounds on her torso and legs, presumably from hyena attacks. The wounds were already infected and her overall condition was worrisome. The snare, which was buried deep in the flesh, was removed on the spot and Sally was taken to the Nursery for further wound care.

Sally has come through the worst and is doing well. She is a resolute and brave little elephant, sometimes wild, but with beautiful eyes and an indulgent nature. She has already made friends with Kadiki and matriarch Moyo has already lovingly adopted her into her small herd.

To sponsor Sally, please fill out our donation form.




Taken in the middle of December 2021, female. Age: approx. 1 week

Beatrix was rescued from a sewer in the Zambezi Valley, where she probably would have died of heat stroke very soon due to the current very high temperatures. After her rescuer got her out, he provided water and cooling. That same afternoon, the calf was flown to Harare for intensive treatment. Immediately after arriving at the Nursery, the team set to work to provide the little one with life-saving milk. With the help of Kadiki and Moyo, the starved Beatrix drank her first dose despite the unpleasant taste.
Beatrix weighed 85 kg. This is very little for a calf of about one week old. However, since the little one has no injuries or diseases, the ZEN-TEAM is very confident. Kadiki immediately had a very special connection with Beatrix and cares for her heart-warmingly.
The little one has recovered amazingly well with the help of her companion and the loving care of the ZEN team and already loves to bathe and swim in the mud.

To sponsor Beatrix, please fill out our donation form.


Read our Report from March 2022 (2.55 MByte)
Read our Report from August 2021 (1.57 MByte)
Read our Report from February 2021 (0.5 MByte)
Read our Report from August 2020 (6.7 MByte)
Read a touching story about the hard facts in wildlife protection
Read our Report from April 2020 (German)
Read the annual report 2019 by ZEN: A Culture of Care 2019
Read our Report from July 2019


Elephants in Zimbabwe are fighting for survival. Like in many African countries poaching of elephants is rampant, and the iconic pachyderms are also struggling with a dramatic loss of their habitats and widespread human/elephant conflict. Some regions in the north of Zimbabwe have lost between 40 % and 70 % of their elephant population since 2006.

Elephant calves are often the survivors of such calamities. But without their mother and herd they are doomed to die.

In Zimbabwe the Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery (ZEN) takes care of these lost babies. The orphans are looked after around the clock and lovingly nursed back to health, in order to eventually release them back into the wild. But hand-raising elephant calves is a long and elaborate process.

Until the age of approximately three years, elephant calves are dependent on their mothers milk. Therefore the orphans have to be bottle-fed with a special milk formula. Particularly newly born elephant babies (under 1 month old) require highly sophisticated care. Every calf needs a minimum of 4 keepers doing 8-hour-shifts, day and night.

Once the young elephants are strong and old enough, they are introduced gradually to an independent life in the wild. This happens in a protected reserve near the Victoria Falls.

The ZEN nursery itself is situated close to the airport in a suburb of Harare and is open to visitors. Besides elephant calves, all kinds of orphaned or handicapped animals are taken care of – in order to release them back into the wild if possible.

The ZEN project was founded 2013 in cooperation of the private Wild is Life Trust and the public Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA), in order to ensure the rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned elephants in Zimbabwe.


The rescue program consits of three stages:

1) Rescue and Care

The rehabilitation of rescued elephant calves takes place in a specially designed nursery at Wild is Life Sanctuary near Harare Airport, including 330 hectares of wild land where the pachyderms can roam safely each day. There is a capacity for up to 10 rescued elephants.

2) Back into the Wild

Once the elephants are strong and old enough, they enter the second stage of the program: Step by step they are introduced to an independent life in the wilderness. Their new home is situated in a protected area comprising 1550 hectares of prime wildlife habitat which was leased by Wild is Life for 25 years in 2017. The area forms the southern boundary to Zambezi National Park close to Victoria Falls.

3) Release and Protection

As part of ZEN’s vision to protect elephants and their habitat in the long term, the goal is to secure and manage the entire Panda Masuie Forest Area (33 500 hectares). It is at a very critical position, situated in between 4 different Protected Areas namely Zambezi National Park, Kazuma Pan National Park, Matetsi Safari Area and Woodlands Estate.

The securing of the area will safeguard critical elephant habitat, provide security for elephants and increase connectivity between populations by establishing a safe corridor between protected areas.


Sally, a badly injured elephant calf is spotted motherless on the banks of the Zambezi River, read what happens next here:
ZEN / New addition to the elephant kindergarten

Six orphaned elephant cubs have found a new home at Victoria Falls after a journey of nearly a thousand kilometers, published May 2021 in Zeit Online:
New home for elephant orphans at Victoria Falls

A report about Roxy Danckwerts, published May 2019 in Brigitte Women:
Alles im Grauen Bereich

An Interview with Roxy Danckwerts (2018):
Wild is Life - Reach Beyond Series

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