By Hannah Partos

A BABY elephant in Vietnam is being nurtured back to health with human milk formula after it became separated from its mother and the rest of its herd

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Videographer / Director: Jake Veasey
Producer: Crystal Chung, Nick Johnson
Editor: Joshua Douglas, Ian Phillips

Four-month-old Gold lost his family in March after he got trapped in a well dug by illegal loggers

British wildlife expert Dr Jake Veasey tried to reintroduce three-month-old Gold to his elephant family by pushing the baby towards them – and at first it seemed like his attempt had been a success.

“We were over the moon when we thought we’d pulled it off,” said Dr Veasey, who is directing a team of animal workers from the Animals Asia Foundation.

Once rescued from the well Gold was taken to the Elephant Conservation Centre 30km away in Buon Don district

But the team’s joy turned to devastation when Gold was found alone less than twelve hours later, some distance from the area where he had appeared to join the other elephants.

Dr Veasey said that Gold’s mother may not have been in the herd at all, or she may not have recognised him as he had been away for two weeks and smelt of humans and human baby milk.

Rescue workers had to move the rest of the family away from the well to save Gold without being attacked themselves

“Maybe her milk had dried up and she was no longer lactating,” he added.

Four-month-old Gold lost his family in March after he got trapped in a well dug by illegal loggers, who cut down rainforest trees to sell timber.

Gold is currently living in temporary accommodation while Animals Asia build a sanctuary to care for him

While the adult elephants were large enough to reach the well’s water supply with their trunks, Gold’s smaller stature meant he fell in when he tried to drink.

Rescue workers had to move the rest of the family away from the well to save Gold without being attacked themselves, as elephants in Vietnam are nervous around humans and view them as a threat.

Veasey has now ordered specialist bottles for the baby elephant and said that his health and wellbeing will improve

Despite hopes that the herd would eventually return and find the baby, the adult elephants had been scared off by the human presence.

Now Gold is living in temporary accommodation while the Elephant Conservation Centre build a sanctuary to care for him and other elephants.

Dr Veasey said: "Gold was so depressed and lonely that we worried he might not survive"

“Gold was so depressed and lonely that we worried he might not survive,’ said Dr Veasey, who explained that the team were at first reluctant to “smother him with affection” for fear of giving him “a human imprint” and compromising his chances of a life in the wild.

Gold has been showing signs of chronic stress – pacing back and forwards diagonally – and trying to suckle everything because he misses his mother’s teat.

Jake Veasey, an expert in animal behaviour has been assisting ECC to design the centre for elephants rescued from the local tourist trade

But Veasey has now ordered specialist bottles for the baby elephant, and hopes that when the sanctuary is built, his health and wellbeing will improve.

Currently there is just one other elephant in the temporary corral with Gold, but Veasey and his colleagues are planning on building herds there by rescuing elephants from Vietnam’s tourist trade.

To get close enough to the herd, three-month-old Gold had to be pushed by elephant expert Jake Veasey

“Often the females have strong maternal instincts,” he added.

“It would be great to see Gold in a social situation where he can interact with other elephants and thrive.”

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welfare in China and Vietnam www.animalsasia.org