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Quick Facts about  DIKA

Gender  Male Date of Birth  August 1988
Location Found  Tsavo West National Park
Age on Arrival  3 Months old
Comments on Place Found  Herd gunned down by Somali ivory poachers in Tsavo West National Park
Reason for being Orphaned  Poaching

This elephant was orphaned whilst his family were migrating from Tsavo West National Park to Tsavo East in 1988, a journey that involved moving through the Taita Hills Sanctuary, and exposure to human presence on private ranchlands. During this process, the herd ran into a hail of gunfire from armed Somali poachers, who at that period of time, were involved in perpetrating the wholesale slaughter of elephants for their Ivory, an elephant holocaust that reduced the Tsavo ecosystem’s elephant population from 45,000 (utilizing a home range double the size of the Park, i.e. 16,000 square miles) to just 5 – 6,000 terrified and traumatised survivors. This terrible tragedy that overtook the elephants during 3 decades of rampant and uncontrolled poaching, was mirrored in the demeanor of the calf we named Dika. He became an orphan when just 3 months old, and arrived in the Nairobi Nursery more like a porcupine than an elephant, his skin pierced by countless protruding long Acacia thorns. This was indicative of the fact that the herd had been stampeded through an Acacia thicket, and he had obviously tried to follow his mother through this thorny barrier. She lay dead within this thicket, one of several elephants from that herd that died in a hail of bullets on that fateful day that left Dika an orphan.

Dika arrives in the back of a vehicle, a tiny calf just a couple of months old

Dika came to us in such deep depression and grieving for his lost mother and elephant family that he stood, lifeless, with watery tear-filled eyes for four long months in the Nairobi Nursery. Day by day, the Keepers gently extracted the thorns from his skin, and his feet, and so utterly devastated was he, that he seemed impervious to the pain. Dejectedly he stood detached and apart from the other elephants, with downcast weeping eyes, so bereft that we began to wonder whether, in fact, he was not brain damaged!

Dr. Daphne Sheldrick giving Dika his daily mudbath  Dika, Kioko and Ndume

Very gradually, however, he began to heal psychologcially, and a small sparkle came back into his soft brown eyes shaded by long lashes. The day he actually joined the others in playing and taking an interest in his new surroundings, was cause for a huge and happy celebration within our Nairobi Nursery! Slowly, his personality began to shine through, and he became transformed into a wonderful and very special little elephant, gentle and very caring of his peers, and extremely affectionate towards his carers. It was Dika who was responsible for persuading another orphan, Edo from Amboseli, to make the effort to even try to live, for when Edo arrived in the Nursery, aged 6 months, and malnourished having lost his mother, he simply lay down and wanted to die. We brought Dika and the other Nursery elephants to where the newcomer was lying and Dika immediately went up to him, gently fondling him with his trunk, and rumbling an elephant greeting. We then gave Dika a bottle of milk, which he accepted with relish, touching his Keeper’s face lovingly with the tip of his trunk as he downed it. Then he was offered a second bottle, and we could actually see some interest creeping into Edo’s lifeless eyes. Having finished the milk, Dika again focused on Edo, nudging him with a foot and urging him to try and stand. With the help of the Keepers, Edo managed to get up, and taking his queue from Dika, immediately downed several bottles of milk. That day, Edo joined the other elephants at the mudbath, pressed close to Dika, and because the Amboseli elephants have never been subjected to gunfire poaching, he had no fear of the human spectators that surrounded them. (The Amboseli elephants have been studied for the past 28 years, so they are habituated to human spectators).

Little Dika  Dike with Ndume on the right

Dr. Daphne Sheldrick with Dika  Dika at mudbath

Dika mudbathing  Dika having a dustbath

Today, with the benefit of 18 years of hindsight, Daphne Sheldrick can honestly say that Dika is one of the nicest elephant characters the Trust has ever had the privilege of knowing. He showed us how deeply elephants mourn their lost loved ones, and for how long, and it was he that showed us how important the input of the other Nursery inmates is in persuading a newcomer to live. It was also Dika that showed us that elephants really do shed tears.

Dika enjoying greens  Dika in Tsavo

Having safely reached the age of 2 years, he was transferred to Tsavo along with other Nursery inmates of the same age, and there he was embraced by the famous elephant Matriarch, “Eleanor” to begin the gradual process of reintegration back into the elephant community that yielded him in the first place. We often wonder whether in the immensity of Tsavo Dika has met survivors from his original elephant family; perhaps cousins, Aunts and even older siblings. As he grew older, as is the way of young elephant males, he chose to spend time away from Eleanor’s unit in the company of his wild companions. However, Dika has always kept in regular touch, turning up unexpectedly at odd intervals whenever he happens to be in the area. One day, when 15 years old, he arrived at the Elephant Stockades trailing a wire snare firmly attached to one back leg. He stood stock still, lifting the wounded leg so that the Keepers could remove the wire snare which was digging into his flesh, never flinching, but knowing that it had to be done. On this occasion, he also had an abscess on the side of his face, which needed attention and because it was beyond easy reach, a Keeper had to stand on a drum beside him to syringe out the wound.Yet again, this wonderful elephant subjected himself quietly to being assisted.

Ajok and Dika  Olmeg, Dika, Ndume, Malaika and Edo with Emily and Imenti

Dika in the waterhole with all the orphans

Today, in 2005, Dika is an impressive bull of 17, exactly one year younger than his orphan peers, Taru and Olmeg. Edo still retains a great fondness for him, and often travels with him. Sometimes, he turns up with either Edo or one of the other “Big Boys”, and at other times, he comes alone. He carries impressive ivory, even at 17, and he is as gentle and trusting as ever, but even as a teenager, walks tall, with the dignified stance of dominance. The Trust is very proud to have successfully, saved, reared and returned this elephant to his “people”, and rewarded by his enduring courtesy and love

Dika May 2004

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The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust   P.O. Box 15555 Nairobi KenyaThe David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a non-profit in Kenya, a registered charity in England and Wales (1103836) and is supported by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust USA, a 501(c)(3) in the United States.

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