Update on Noku

14 October 2022


With your support, Noku the orphaned elephant calf is now thriving in the forests of Liberia, helping our colleagues at ELRECO protect this Critically Endangered species.

Noku with her carers

Born Free is committed to protecting threatened species in their natural environment and supports organisations working to conserve the most vulnerable species. The African forest elephant is classed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN*, and to our concern the global population is decreasing. In response, Born Free supports the critical work of the non-governmental organisation Elephant Research and Conservation (ELRECO) in their aim of conserving the precious forest elephants of Liberia, West Africa.

This organisation was founded in 2017 by Dr Tina Vogt and Bernhard Forster after they discovered what is likely one of the largest populations of forest elephants remaining in the region. Their aims include increasing knowledge of the distribution and numbers of elephants in the region, understanding elephants’ seasonal movements and migrations, and documenting the pressures of hunting for the ivory trade and human-wildlife conflicts. A key part of collecting this baseline data is to complete a nationwide survey of forest elephants across Liberia, which will significantly inform the conservation actions and priorities needed to protect this Critically Endangered species.

Back in March 2022, ELRECO received an emergency call about an orphaned elephant calf that had been confiscated by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in Liberia, from a remote village in the northwest of the country. Sadly, it is likely her mother had been poached. At only a few months old, the baby calf – named Noku – was completely dependent on human care. As there is no elephant orphanage in Liberia, ELRECO and the FDA worked closely to provide Noku with the best care possible in a nearby FDA field station and give her the greatest opportunity in life.

Now, six-months on, we are happy to report Noku is thriving. She is growing rapidly, with a shoulder height of 94cm and a chest girth of 135cm. This level of growth requires a huge amount of food – Noku easily eats 50 pieces of bananas at a time, in addition to lots of other fruits and vegetables, forest plants and 50kg of milk powder per month! She is regularly taken into the reserve where she has the whole day to play, explore and learn about the forest environment, its challenges, and seasonal food resources. She is also taken on longer walks – she can walk up to nine miles (15km) at a time already – two times a week, to get her used to the longer walking distances she’d need to do if she lived wild in the forest. It is hopeful with these experiences and training, she can one day return to the wild where she belongs.

With your support, ELRECO can continue their great work conserving this Critically Endangered species and give forest elephants like Noku the greatest chance of survival.


*International Union for the Conservation of Nature