Barsilinga’s Call for Help

Published on the 23rd of February, 2024

“Yesterday evening, Barsilinga arrived at the Ithumba stockades. I had not seen him for more than one month. I realised that he had a small wound, probably from an arrow or a spear.”

Head Keeper Benjamin immediately understood that this was no ordinary social call from the ex-orphan — it was a cry for help. He alerted the SWT Kaluku Headquarters, who prepared for a treatment the following morning, 12 February 2024. The team was on standby until Barsilinga showed up, but they didn’t have to wait long: He appeared at first light, in the company of some other ex-orphans. It was all systems go.

Our fixed-wing pilot collected the SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit from Voi and flew them to the scene. By this point, Barsilinga was mixed in with the dependent orphan herd, but the mood was relaxed. With no fuss or drama, KWS veterinarian Dr Limo walked up to him and darted him. Even once Barsilinga succumbed to the anaesthetic and treatment commenced, the other elephants remained calm. They clearly knew that we were there to help.

It turned out that Barsilinga had been struck by a spear. The wound was very deep, but fortunately it did not compromise the joint or bone. After thoroughly cleaning out the injury and administering antibiotics, Barsilinga was up and on his way. He got to his feet and then strode off into the bush.

As Benjamin says, Barsilinga is a special boy in our lives. He was orphaned back in 2012, when he was just a few weeks old. Poachers killed his mother, but he was one of the lucky survivors who got rescued in time. Barsilinga grew up in our care, first at the Nairobi Nursery and then at our Ithumba Reintegration Unit. Two years ago, in the company of some of his closest friends, he completed his reintegration journey and reclaimed his place in the wild.

Barsilinga is also a special patient in our lives. This isn’t the first time we have given him a helping hand. In 2020, just as he was beginning to explore his independence, a stick got lodged inside his foot. This resultant injury became seriously infected, and for the better part of two years, Barsilinga remained anchored to Ithumba as the Keepers diligently treated his foot. This must have been frustrating for Barsilinga, just as all his friends were starting to embrace their wild lives, but he was a model patient throughout.

Clearly, Barsilinga has never forgotten the help he has received over the years. After he was speared, he knew exactly where to go. As Benjamin remarked, ‘The reason why Barsilinga showed up after being away for so long — he wanted to show his human family that he had a problem. And he understood that we are the ones who can really help.’

We are happy to report that Barsilinga joined the dependent orphans at their mud bath three days after his treatment. He was in fine form and his wound is healing well.

Barsilinga, standing behind Oltaiyoni, visited a few days after his treatment to show us how well he is healing

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