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Imagine: elephants swimming to an island!

Jul 5 • 998 views • 9 Comments Adventure, Africa, anti-poaching, Conservation, East Africa, experiential tourism, human wildlife conflict, Queen Elizabeth National Park, safari, tourism experience, Travel, Uganda, Uganda Conservation Foundation, UWA, wildlife

Last week I had an elephant encounter  at Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe.

Baby elephant Charles at five months old

Baby elephant Charles loves to play football! Here he is at five months old

When you first encounter this baby elephant Charlie, thoughts of murder are far from your mind.

Originally from Queen Elizabeth National Park, Charles was brought to UWEC (a.k.a. the zoo) at the tender age of three weeks old, a victim of poachers that tragically saw him orphaned and then abandoned.

Fishermen of Hamukungu fishing village found baby Charles  abandoned on the shores of an island on Lake George, trying to swim. Since there were no other elephants nearby, and the baby was about to drown, the rescuers loaded Charles into their wooden dugout canoe and paddled him back to Hamukungu.

Can you imagine – seeing a baby elephant being paddled across the lake!

The fishermen were compensated for their quick-thinking by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and fisherman Charles was delighted for the elephant to be named after him!

Two days after the dramatic marine rescue, the carcass of an adult male elephant with six bullet wounds to the head and thoracic regions (indicative of poachers) was found submerged, next to the same island. It’s suspected that ivory poachers may have scared the elephant family away, leaving behind the newborn baby.

On arrival at UWEC a week later, baby Charles was weak, exhausted, and extremely thirsty. He was believed to be about a week old, as the umbilical cord was still attached. He did not know how to suckle; neither did he know the taste of milk.

Bull elephant along the Kazinga Channel, Queen Elizabeth National Park

Bull elephant feeding along the Kazinga Channel. Can you spot the hippo?

Organisations like the Uganda Conservation Foundation are working hard with UWA to stop poaching, remind local people of  the penalties for poaching and the benefits of community conservation. UCF is building the capacity of UWA to work on the waterways of Queen Elizabeth by providing boats, professional marine ranger training and ranger accommodation posts. Uganda’s National Parks were once teeming with wildlife but the politically unstable years of the 1970s and 80s killed off all the rhino and Queen Elizabeth’s elephant population dropped by approximately 80%. The population has been slowly recovering but tragically, the international trade in ivory is undergoing an unprecedented increase. At least 13 Ugandan elephants were killed for ivory in 2011 and they desperately need more protection.

To visit Charles or donate milk to feed him, contact UWEC on 0414 320 520 or 0414 320 169. UWEC is open every day from 8 am till 6 pm. You can also find UWEC on Facebook.

So how do you feed a baby elephant? 

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9 Responses to Imagine: elephants swimming to an island!

  1. lizziema says:

    Just realised how unusual it is to have such a baby elephant available for close scrutiny. I didn’t realise or forgot he was only a week old when found. He still looks like a little cutey, but woundn’t want him to stand on my foot.

    • the muzungu says:

      Yes we were so lucky to get up so close – but next time I’m wearing steel-capped boots!!
      Must find a more recent photo of him – he puts on several kilos a week!

  2. Mark Dudley says:

    As a permanent resident in Kampala, I had no idea that Charlie was at UWEC – and that’s despite going there about every two months with my young daughter! They just DON’T promote it well enough – since Debbie left in around 2007 (?), UWEC just hasn’t had the same push for marketing that it should have.

    Thanks to your blog popping up (and me having time to read it) I booked an appointment and took four people with me. I have now booked to go see him again in three weeks with another set of friends… amazing how these things happen sometimes.

    Great blog, keep it up! If I could give one piece of feedback – is there some way to turn off the music? It drives me nuts!

    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Mark, UWEC has some fantastic visitor and volunteer experiences now. You can get close to almost every animal – for the various fees.
      Belinda the PR Officer is very enthusiastic and full of ideas but lack of money + bureaucracy prevent things from happening as quickly as we’d all like. That’s why I like to promote UWEC (and Nature Uganda, UWA, the Uganda Conservation Foundation, the Snake place near Entebbe and Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Trust) on Diary of a Muzungu :)
      Delighted to hear you’ve visited following one of my posts – I must revisit too! Would love to see your photos. Baby Charlie must be quite a lot bigger now?
      Tx for all your feedback – you should be able to turn the music off/down by clicking on slider bar next to the search bar. Can you see this? If not, pls let me know. We did have teething problems showing the slider bar on an ipad but haven’t tested it in every browser yet. All feedback always welcome.
      Have a great time at UWEC!

  3. Mark Dudley says:

    Happy to share my photos – I started a facebook page last week called ‘Mark Dudley Photography’ (I’ve no intention of doing it professionally, it’s just a bit of fun)and there’s a picture of Charlie on it if you’d like to see.

    They told me that Charlie is now 300kg (I’m a little sceptical about this figure, but let’s run with it) and so I’d imagine that he’s grown rather a lot since you last saw him.

    I read about the other animals which you can visit at UWEC – and some of them on the list are pretty terrifying. Errrmmmm should be fun! Might not take my 7 month old daughter in to the lion enclosure with me though…ahem.

    I have found the music panel, but the music restarts every time I click on another page…

    • the muzungu says:

      The UWEC lion might rather like your 7 month old daughter to come visit – GULP!
      I can’t see your Facebook page – is it a public one? Wd love to see a Bigger Charlie.
      Yes the music restarts every time you open a new page so maybe mute your speakers? Tx for the feedback, we need a better solution to this one! So bear with us please!

  4. [...] Charles was not born in captivity. Next, read the tragic story behind this elephant-sized bundle of fun… Imagine: elephants swimming to an island! [...]

  5. [...] evidence of the rise in ivory poaching in Uganda, Charles was rescued by fishermen from an island in Lake George in Queen Elizabeth National Park, where he had lost his mother to poachers. He was brought to the wildlife centre in Entebbe at the [...]

  6. [...] boat trip on the Kazinga Channel at Mweya: elephant, hippo, Buffalo and many of the park’s 600 bird [...]

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