Orphan Vibhi


VibhishanaIn 2013, Elemotion Foundation added a new and very precious member to our family.  Three-year old Sri Lankan orphan Vibhishana, (‘Vibhi’ for short) is the apple of our eye. We are sponsoring Vibhi during his rehabilitation at a special orphanage called the Elephant Transit Home.  He needs your support while he grows and prepares for his eventual release back into the wild. To learn more about Vibhi, the Elephant Transit Home, and Human Elephant Conflict, watch our video or read the expanding sections at the bottom of the page.

If you would like to foster Vibhi, please click the donate button.  You may choose to make a one time or monthly donation.  Remember to select ‘Orphan Vibhi’ from the drop down menu. donate

 

 

Elemotion Foundation thanks Dr. Tharaka Prasad, Dr. B. Vijitha Perera, and Dr. Deepani Jayantha for their tireless work, continued support, and valuable advice.
 

Vibhi’s story

Three-month old Vibhi was rescued in mid-2011 from an abandoned well near the Anuradhapura area of North-Central Sri Lanka.

Fortunately, Vibhi arrived at the orphanage in good condition and had a smooth transition to cow’s milk formula.  An older female orphan named Neela quickly took little Vibhi under her wing.  Neela became Vibhi’s allomother.  An allomother serves as a protector, comforter, teacher, and friend.  Sadly, after one year, the two were separated when Neela was released in the wild.

During this time, Vibhi also formed a close bond with another orphan his own age.  Her name is Ruby.  Together, they spend their time grazing, playing, and even sleeping next to each other.  The duo is often spotted with another friend about their same age, named Deegawapi.

Vibhi is a very sweet but bold little elephant.  He is hesitant and always the last in his group to take his milk at the feeding station. But, he is bold and confident when free ranging with the herd. He prefers to stay in the company of his girlfriends and looks to them and the other herd members for comfort and protection. He is wary of the keepers and avoids being singled out. We are happy he is still wary of the keepers as the avoidance of humans will benefit him when he is released in the wild.

Since Neela’s departure, Vibhi has found a new allomother.  Her name is Samari.  Best friends, Ruby and Vibhi, are sometimes seen suckling Samari’s earlobes.  This is a common comfort seeking behavior among the orphans at the Elephant Transit Home.

When released, life in the wild will be difficult for Vibhi and the other orphans.  These young elephants will never get the support or the important life lessons they should have learned from their adult family members.  However, the orphanage gives them a chance by helping to repair their health, grow strong, and practice important social skills.

Elemotion Foundation is proud to sponsor Vibhi throughout the rest of his journey at the Transit Home. Until the day he is ready to be released, he needs your support.  He must continue to receive quality care to prepare him for his life as a wild elephant.

Funds for Vibhi will go directly to pay for his care at Elephant Transit Home. Elemotion Foundation visits the Transit Home regularly for on-going projects and to check on Vibhi.

To foster Vibhi, please click the donate button.  You may choose to make a one time or monthly donation.  Remember to select ‘Orphan Vibhi’ from the drop down menu.

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Elephant Transit Home

The Elephant Transit Home, run by Sri Lanka’s Department of Wildlife Conservation, is a unique orphanage whose mission is to release orphaned Asian elephants back into the wild.  Most of the elephants at the Transit Home were orphaned due to Human Elephant Conflict.  Since opening in 1995, over 90 orphans have been freed in Udawalawe National Park.

Elemotion Foundation visits the Transit Home regularly.  We are extremely privileged to get a special access to the facilities, spend  hours consulting with staff, and view the babies from a distance.  Read interview with Dr. Tharaka Prasad.

There is no petting or cuddling the babies at this orphanage.  In fact, to prepare the orphans for life in the wild, human contact is kept to a bare minimum.  Milk feeding and veterinary care are the only times when the staff touches or handles the orphans. Only the very young or ill babies in need of constant attention enjoy contact with the keepers.

The orphans, aged between a few weeks to 5-years, are allowed to socialize and roam freely inside the park.  They are never chained.  There is a forest for shade and a reservoir for bathing and playing.  Organized milk feeding occurs every three hours.  The public can buy a ticket and watch the adorable feeding (9am and 12 pm only) from a designated platform that does not disturb the orphans.

With a capacity for 40 orphans, the staff is attentive and careful to the special needs of these babies.  Introducing a baby elephant to milk formula is a difficult and often dangerous task.  Intolerance, diarrhea, and dehydration can severely threaten the life of an already weak and stressed baby elephant.  Treatment of injuries, wounds, abrasions, factures, dehydration, and malnourishment are also part of the daily routine.

Once the orphans reach the age of 4-5 years, they are grouped together in small batches for release into the Udawalawe National Park.  In the wild, they face enormous challenges.  Some orphans integrate into wild families, some shadow but do not join their older wild counterparts, and others stay together in juvenile herds. But, whatever path they follow, thanks to the care they received at the Transit Home, the orphans are strong and have a better chance of prospering in the wild.

Elemotion Foundation would like share one particular success story. In November 2013, we travelled inside Udawalawe National Park and were delighted to identify a herd of female elephants consisting of at least two former orphans. Head Transit Home veterinarian, Dr. Tharaka, identified these orphans as Mathalie and Sandamali. They are now mothers and have two calves each.  It was wonderful to see the orphans doing so well in the wild.

To foster Vibhi or support our projects at the Elephant Transit Home, please click the donate button.

To see our latest work at the Transit Home, please visit the Elephant Transit Home page. You may choose to make a one time or monthly donation.
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Human Elephant Conflict

Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) is a major threat to the survival of Asian elephants.  Due to loss and fragmentation of habitat, elephants and people often find themselves in deadly or injurious conflict.

In most cases, a wild herd will roam onto a farmer’s land in search of food.  It only takes one crop raid by a wild herd to destroy a family’s entire income for one year.  To protect themselves and their livelihood, the villagers use many techniques such as noise-makers, lighting firecrackers, shooting guns, village elephant drives, setting traps, poison, digging trenches, and installing electric fences.

Human encroachment on the elephant’s ancestral lands also leads to elephant injury and death due to power line electrocution, animal traps, snares, train accidents, falling into wells and mines.

In Sri Lanka, approximately 200 elephants and 70 people are killed every year due to HEC.  Most of the elephants at the Elephant Transit Home were orphaned due to HEC.

To foster Vibhi, please click the donate button.  You may choose to make a one time or monthly donation.  Remember to select ‘Orphan Vibhi’ from the drop down menu.

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Updates…

June 2014  

Allo-mother Samari and 3 year old VibhiOn this visit, we spent four amazing days in the field working on a new project. During that time, we observed Vibhi in the free range area. We were delighted to see his confidence is very high! Although usually quiet and slow, he can be bold and assertive when he wants.

Vibhi is certainly growing taller at 4’6”, a nice height for a 3-year old elephant. Compared to other babies his size, his legs are long. In the past, we observed a small papilloma on his trunk. It has grown and others have appeared. A papilloma causes a bump on the skin and may be irritating. It is caused by a virus. Orphans that did not acquire enough of their mother’s antibodies through suckling are more susceptible to the virus. Nevertheless, there’s no need to worry. When his body develops enough antibodies, the papillomas will go away on there own. He’ll be just fine.

Vibhi frequents the same friends, Ruby and Deewagapi, and he’s also happy to spend some time on his own. He seems to tolerate the little ones but does not seek them out. His gentle allo-mother, Samari, visits and looks after him and Ruby. We are very happy that she is such a committed and gracious foster parent. The photo features Vibhi (right) and Samari (left) on either side of tree.

During this visit, we inspected our new surveillance system, donated 36 pairs of weatherproof boots to the keepers and staff, and worked on a new project. We’ll keep you updated!

A huge ‘Trunks up!’ and thank you to Vibhi’s foster parents.

 

 

March 2014  

Vibhi fills his cheeks as he drinks milkNot much has changed since our last visit. Vibhi is still comfortable in his family group with Samari, his allo-mother, Ruby, and Deegawapi. The group is released together for feeding. Vibhi is always a gentleman, and let’s the ladies go first. It’s very sweet to see how he still shy and hesitant with the keepers. We take this as a good sign. He should not feel too comfortable with people as this could get him into trouble when released in the wild.

He has grown taller but hasn’t filled out much. Vibhi has always been a little on the thin side. And, it is normal for the Transit Home orphans to be slightly underweight compared with their wild counterparts. But, he is in good health, and we’ll try to get him a little extra milk, if he’ll take it!

Elemotion Foundation is currently working on installing a camera surveillance system for the orphans of the Transit Home. This will allow the vets and keepers to keep an eye on Vibhi and the other babies from a central location. We are looking forward to seeing this improvement installed.

 

 

November 2013  

Three-year old Vibhi is doing wonderfully.  He is incredibly sweet and a somewhat shy little guy.  A gentle ladies man, he is still part of the same tight knit group consisting of girlfriends, Ruby and Deegawapi, and his beautiful allo-mother, Samari.

Due to his sweet character, the well-meaning keepers have been showing him some extra attention. Even though this sounds nice, the head vets and Elemotion agreed to put a stop to it. We have Vibhi’s best interest at heart. When he is released in the wild, he will have a better chance at survival if his association with humans is neutral.  No worries about him feeling lonely, his family group shows him plenty of attention.

Vibhi’s new video shows him walking up the feeding station and drinking his milk.  You’ll notice his signature drinking technique with his trunk wrapped around the feeding tube.  You’ll also see his cheeks bulge as he fills them with milk as he drinks. That’s our Vibhi!

 

 

April 2013 

Elemotion Foundation travels to southern Sri Lanka to visit the Vibhi at his orphanage, the Elephant Transit Home.  Learn more about the orphanage and watch Vibhi receive his milk formula.  There are also special appearances by best girlfriend, Ruby, and allo-mother Samari.