A sad day in the Nursery

She came in on a Sunday

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She came in on a Sunday.   It always seems to happen on a Sunday, but Sunday 8th June 2008 turned out to be unusually hectic as KWS informed us of two possible rescues from Laikipia to coordinate, which is never easy, especially on a Sunday!

One young orphan had been captured on Oljogi Ranch in Laikipia district, having been spotted the day before on Mpala Ranch, alone.  She was closely monitored, incase her herd was still in the area, but having miraculously survived the night despite numerous predators around, it became clear to all that she was definitely an orphan.  By this time she had crossed over onto Oljogi Ranch.     The other orphan had been spotted standing beside a dead mother, obviously a victim of poaching in a neighboring area.   Unhappily, poaching is set to escalate throughout Africa since CITES, in its wisdom, has authorized the sale of an estimated 119 tons of ivory from four southern African nations - Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and even Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, ivory that represents the death of some l0,000 elephants.   Furthermore, despite an outcry from the world’s conservationists, CITES has gone ahead and accepted China as a legitimate importer of such so-called legal ivory stockpiles in spite of its record as the repository for most of the world’s poached ivory!  The thinking behind this decision defies logic!

We called the newest arrival that had been flown into the Nairobi Nursery during the late evening of Sunday 8th June, “Namalok”, the Samburu term for “sweetie”, since she originated from Samburu country and certainly was a sweetie, despite being severely malnourished and enfeebled through milk deprivation, obviously having been minus her mother for some time.   The second orphan never did arrive.   When the KWS ranges tried to capture it, it managed to escape into thick bush and to date has not been found. 

Baby Namolok was about 9 months old, and although weak, managed to summon enough strength to push her Keeper around a little upon arrival, before hungrily downing 3 pints of milk, along with gallons of water fortified with rehydration salts.   But, for a wild caught 9 month old elephant, she was far too docile for comfort, and this is never a good prognosis for success.  Nevertheless, she fed well throughout the night, and in the morning had bonded with her Keeper and was suckling his fingers.   The other elephants were brought round to meet her, and she was instantly embraced by them, showering her with concern and love.   Lenana, especially, was enchanted with this new baby, tenderly touching her and keeping her ever so close. 

At the noon mudbath she was in amongst all the Nursery elephants, quiet and trusting, secure in their love and seemingly oblivious to the presence of the visitors.   However, by 3 p.m. all she wanted to do was sleep. Lenana remained behind with her, gently urging her to try and follow the others, pulling gently on her trunk, but tell-tale signs were already there – stools that had turned too loose and an all encompassing lethargy.   Slowly she was taken back to her stable where she fell into a deep sleep, and although she managed to take her 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. milk feed which was promising, by midnight she was not just sleeping, but had slipped into a coma and during the early hours of the 9th June, she died.   She had been far too far gone for us to be able to retrieve.    Lenana seemed to understand as sadly another grave had to be dug for little Namalok to be laid to rest, her spirit gone to join that of her elephant mother “somewhere in the great somewhere”.   There was, however, comfort in the knowledge that she did not die alone in a hostile environment, but instead surrounded by both the love of the elephants and also the humans who tried so hard to allow her a second chance of life like the 85 plus other Trust success stories.