Veterinary nurse helps save baby elephant in Zambia


Paul Kennedy, The Argus

Date Published

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A veterinary nurse from Brighton was part of a team of wildlife officers who helped to save a baby elephant in Africa.

Liz O’Brien was called out to help the two-month old calf after the stranded creature lost her mother.

The tiny orphaned elephant was stuck in a pool of mud in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

As well as starving and terrified, the calf was also suffering severe nightmares, according to elephant experts.

A team from local airline Proflight Zambia then flew into action and dispatched a 12-seater C208 Caravan aircraft to collect the elephant – named Matizye after a nearby river – flying her to the safety of an elephant orphanage operated by the Game Rangers International charity in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka.

The calf was then taken to the nearby Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust where she was cared for by Game Rangers International’s consultant vet nurse Liz O’Brien, who found the fragile female orphan in desperate need of help.

The calf was dehydrated, stressed and showing the initial signs of shock.

Liz said: “She was found a week ago lying in a puddle of mud. I was called in by Game Rangers International to see if we could save her life.

“She was extremely thin, she was very dehydrated, she was extremely stressed.

“She had lost her mother and she was even having nightmares.”

While the fate of Matizye’s mother is not known, Liz speculated that she might have fallen victim to poachers, who are known to operate in the area, as mother elephants do not abandon their calves.

Liz was born in Burgess Hill and grew up a Brighton and Hove Albion fan.

She studied agriculture at Plumpton Agricultural College before moving into veterinary nursing.

After a series of career moves she went to Zambia in 2011 for a month as a volunteer for the elephant orphanage, and after finishing a degree in zoology was asked to work for Game Rangers International, managing their elephant nursery.

She now provides advice on elephant calves across Africa in South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya and Burkina Faso.

“I just need to save elephants, and the best thing I can do is teach local people how to do that.

“The big thing is passing my knowledge on to the local people,” explained Liz.

“I’ve always been a bit of a maverick.”