Arusha to open baby elephant orphanage

Tanzania copes with oprhans of poached elephants

Tanzania is set to open its first baby elephant orphanage in Arusha to deal with young elephants orphaned following the deaths of their mothers due to the illegal ivory trade.

The Ivory Oprhanage will house 52 elephant calves, until they are ready to be released back into the wild, will be inaugurated in the coming weeks by the nation's president Jakaya Kikwete. The launch of the facility is in response to the growing number of baby elephants who are found roaming alone, unprotected, or discovered in a malnourished state after waiting days beside their mother's corpse.

The orphanage is located within the Kikoti safari camp, off the Arusha-Dodoma highway, and contains more than 50 individual cubicles for the elephants who are provided with special beds on saw-dust floors.

The facility will be operated by the local branch of the non-profit volunteer-run organisation, the African Wildlife Trust, and is modelled on a similar complex in neighbouring Kenya, according to Tanzania's minister for natural resources and tourism Lazaro Nyalandu.

The minister said the initiative is part of the country's efforts to replenish its elephant population back to 100,000 animals by 2030. It follows recent reports that poaching has resulted in the deaths of over 60,000 elephants in the past five years.

The latest wildlife census in 2014 reveals that Tanzania has a total elephant population of around 43,500, compared to the 2009 figure of just over 109,000 elephants.