So it was that yet another elephant orphan rescue came to our attention just four days after Kungu's arrival, from the same region, and for the same reason. On the night of the 12th of September, Lesampouwa, a Samburu tribesman and a scout for the Milgis Trust, heard hyenas in the Ndonyo lugga. Immediately the dawn broke he headed down to the dry river bed and found the pack of hyena's surrounding a well dug into the side of the lugga wall. On closer investigation he discovered a tiny baby elephant calf stuck fast at the bottom of the eight feet deep narrow well, obviously having slipped down, back legs first, but fortunately deep enough to make it difficult for the hyenas to get to him. Lesampouwa immediately went to find help and called another scout from the Milgis Trust, Lesanchu, and with the help of others from the community they managed to pull the tiny four week old calf out with ropes. The scouts radioed Lentukunye at the Milgis Trust's base situated on the south bank of the Barseloi Lugga, and Lentukunye in turn informed The Kenya Wildlife Service. A vehicle was dispatched and together with The Kenya Wildlife Service, Lentukunye transported the calf to the near by village called Latakweny. Given the remoteness of the area, all this took the best part of a full day.
The Kenya Wildlife Service Senior warden of Maralal contacted the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust with news about the calf, as did Pete Illsley from the Milgis Trust, but by this time it was late with no time left in the day to send the rescue aircraft. As if the rescue had not been dramatic and complicated enough, nature dealt us yet another blow. The heavens opened that night, breaking a long hot and parched dry season, and the Barseloi River began to flood. Transporting the calf to any airstrip had just become impossible, and with a calf of only 4 weeks old, time was not on our side. After much phoning around on the night of the 13th by both Angela Sheldrick and Robert Carr-Hartley , and thanks to the cooperation of Jamie Roberts from Tropic air and Chris Steward, the captain of Halvor Astrup's helicopter, we were able to put a plan together. Halvor Astrup, a business man with a long history in conservation in Kenya, has always been most generous with assistance towards the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's rescue efforts, and is responsible for a number of previous elephant rescues over the years, having made his helicopter available in the past for Seraa, Mweya, Solango and Lesanju.
Early morning of the 14th of September Chris, Jamie Roberts and his girl friend Phillipa, set out from Shaba airstrip (Shaba National Reserve- Northern Kenya) where the helicopter was based on a British Army training operation. They flew north to the town of Latakweny. The community (Easily 50 Samburu in traditional dress) and The Milgis Trust scouts, and all the men who with dedication and determination had done so much to bring the calf to safety, were there waiting expectantly. Lentukunye, had stayed with the calf throughout the night, giving the baby water and sleeping next to it and had formed a firm bond, so he was understandably sad to see him go. The elephant baby with hind legs strapped was loaded into the helicopter, but with the limited space was virtually sitting on Jamie's lap. Initially he seemed remarkably calm but whist they were flying over the Mathews Range, with absolutely nowhere to land but forest canopy below, things became very dramatic. He began to struggle clearly becoming increasingly distressed by the rotor blade sounds and vibrations, and between Jamie and Phillipa it was all they could do to keep the calf inside the aircraft. While the intention was to fly to the Shaba National Reserve airstrip to meet up with The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust rescue team, they decided to land at a closer strip, Kitich. On receiving this updated news, the rescue Cessana Caravan plane, which was already in situ waiting for the calf on the Shaba airstrip, took off once again, and routed north for twenty more minutes, this time to land at Kitich to take over responsibility.
It was an unusual sight that met the team at Kitich, a helicopter on a remote airstrip, with an intrigued and curious Samburu community standing by, and a baby elephant resting in the aircraft on Jamies lap under the shade Chris and Phillipa had provided while they all waited for the Keepers.
Our Keepers swiftly gave the calf both milk and rehydration fluids which he eagerly gulped down, desperate for more, but they were mindful of not overdoing things and set about preparing him for the flight back to Nairobi. Everyone that was there helped where they could and the baby was loaded into the back of the Cessna Caravan. So many people have done so much in order for Barseloi to have a second chance at life. These include the men that rescued her, the KWS rangers who traveled long distances to transport him to the closest town. Lentukunye, whose dedication shone as he chose to have a sleepless night providing comfort and water for the calf. Chris, Jamie and Phillipa and the helicopter flight they are not likely to forget, the community on Kitich airstrip who were so eager to help, despite how bazaar the scene that unfolded before them must have seemed, and of course our remarkable Elephant Keepers.
Barseloi seemed a fitting name for this calf estimated to be only four weeks old, as it was the Barseloi lugga, dry for most of the year, which became impassable that fateful night, and caused this rescue to be a lot more complicated than most. He has settled into the nursery well, lucky to have two little friends in the form of Kungu and Suguta, and thankfully Kungu with enough energy to keep up with his antics as Barseloi is a very active baby elephant. The first couple of nights he was clearly distressed, still very aware of the family recently lost, crying out with his broken, hoarse scream, but being so young he has quickly latched onto his nursery elephant friends and Keepers and has calmed down, becoming more peaceful.