This female baby elephant calf was simply found wandering alone at around seven o’clock during the evening of the l9th October, 2009 near the Ngaremara Bridge close to a small centre of the same name near the Northern Border town of Isiolo. She was spotted by Mr. Serem, (the KWS Company Commander of A Company that oversees the Isiolo/Samburu complex) whilst he was traveling back to his base from Isiolo town. As there were no other elephants anywhere in sight, the baby elephant was quite obviously an orphan whose mother had succumbed either to the affects of the devastating drought that has already taken such a heavy toll of all animals, or perhaps become a victim of Ivory poachers, since poaching has escalated sharply in this area since the advent of Chinese construction workers. The tiny calf was only about 1 month of age, and as such was at risk from predators, so Mr. Serem rescued the calf and held it overnight at the KWS base, very wisely feeding her only water and keeping her warm throughout the night.
She was named “Chaffa”, after what in normal years is usually a marshy swamp in an arid land and which is close to the area in which she was found. Upon arrival little Chaffa became the 31st orphan in our Nairobi Nursery, necessitating yet another reshuffle of sleeping arrangements, but thankfully another 4 new stables had just been completed!
During a brief l0 days break in South Africa which was much needed to re-charge batteries after a very challenging year in 2009, we were stunned, shocked and saddened to learn that we had lost little Chaffa, who had been promising a full recovery from the pneumonia that nearly took her from us about a month. We left her gaining weight, feeding well, and playing with her little elephant friends, all of which she was doing just hours before suddenly dying unexpectedly on the 14th January 2010 – the first casualty of the new year. That said, she did have the dreaded and mysterious turning back foot syndrome, that during the drought of 2009 has proved to be a precursor to the certain death of so many of our newly born infant orphaned elephants and which has baffled all the experts. Autopsies of the tendons and ligaments done in three of the country’s top Veterinary Laboratories have not been able to shed any light on this new development amongst the 2009 orphans that have come in during the severest drought the country has ever experienced. Experts believe that it must be a nutritional deficiency of some vital mineral, possibly even whilst in the womb, and have suggested adding Vitamin B2, extra Vitamin C and Silenium, all of which we have been doing, but with no improvement to those that have suffered this new development, which, incidentally, appears to be painless. All who have had it have died, despite passing normal stools, and feeding well.
Body parts from Bhaawa and Chaffa were sent to Japan and blood for analysis in South Africa. Japan managed to identify 2 gut parasites in Bhaawa’s intestines, (which had been undetected in Kenya) and which are prevalent in domestic livestock but so far no explanation has been forthcoming for the “turning foot” syndrome, so on this score we are none the wiser. Since the identification of the two gut parasites, we have treated Mawenzi and Melia, both of whom were not thriving as they should, and both have since recovered, so at least we have managed to get the answer to one condition, but the “turning foot” syndrome remains a mystery. It is likely to be drought related or due to elephants being forced to share pasture and watering places with hordes of domestic diseased and starving livestock belonging to pastoral tribes during the very long and severe drought of 2008 and 2009, passing on parasites normally found in livestock.. Herdsmen and their starving invaded even the Protected Areas in large and this has undoubtedly cost the lives of many of Kenya’s wild elephants over and above the toll taken by the upsurge in poaching fuelled by the demand for ivory in the Far East. Although domestic livestock are illegally in the National Parks, the Government has not been overly vigorous in trying to expel them, since this is a very hot political issue with fresh elections looming in 2012!