Farewell to Rama

Published on the 23rd of June, 2022

With enormous sadness, we share the news that Rama has passed into the great beyond.

Rama's condition was rapidly and irreversibly deteriorating, robbing him of any quality of life and rendering him immobile, which left us with no option but to ease his journey. This was not an easy decision for the vets to make. However, his decline was sudden, shocking, and painful to witness. He had essentially become an elephant with two legs, his back legs bowed to the point where they were no longer functioning and causing him enormous discomfort.

Rama was born with bowlegs. We have never seen this birth defect in an elephant before, but it is undoubtedly the reason he was abandoned on the plains of Laikipia when he was just three years old. In the weeks leading up to his rescue, Rama led a lonely life, largely ignored by passing herds and increasingly vulnerable to predators. With his outlook growing bleaker with each passing day, KWS actioned a rescue and he was brought to our Nairobi Nursery.

We can take comfort in the fact that from that day forward, Rama knew nothing but love and support. The 16 months he spent at our Nairobi Nursery were very happy ones. Rama was always a shy bull, but he had a wonderful spirit that attracted other elephants in his orbit. His best friend was quirky little Ziwadi, and the two spent countless hours browsing in each other’s company. Some of our more introverted newcomers, particularly Oldepe and Lodo, drew great strength from Rama. He was a gentle giant in every way.

Initially, we were cautiously optimistic about Rama’s outlook. In the months following his rescue, we felt that his mobility improved. Recently, however, Rama took a turn for the worse. By our estimation, he turned four years old in November. This is a formative period for any calf, as they begin to outgrow the physique of an infant and embody the elephant they will one day become. As Rama grew larger, his compromised legs bowed further and he could not sustain the increasing weight. They became very swollen and painful, curving dramatically and limiting his mobility and comfort.

We consulted with a number of vets, determined to explore every avenue. Like us, they had never encountered such a condition in an elephant. It was concluded that Rama had the pachyderm equivalent of Blount’s Disease, or severe bow-leggedness. For a creature the size of an elephant, this is an irreversible condition. Vets advised that we keep him calm and comfortable, closely monitoring him for any signs of increased pain.

With no recourse, we focused on tailoring Rama’s routine to best support him. Along with regular veterinary consultations, he received round-the-clock care from his Keepers. On days he was particularly weak, we encouraged him to rest, but he bridled at being confined to his stable. Instead of joining the Nursery herd on their forays into Nairobi National Park, however, he and a dedicated Keeper took short walks into the nearby forest. As time passed, these journeys became increasingly difficult to witness as Rama struggled to move. The orphans visited him throughout the day, especially Ziwadi, who was always eager to check on her big friend.

Despite our best efforts, Rama’s condition continued to deteriorate. We were confronted by the reality that his story was not going to end as we all had hoped and prayed, as we never truly appreciated that such a decline could take hold. With heavy hearts, we were left with little option but to ease any further suffering.

Rama always loved being in the peaceful quiet of the forest. Surrounded by his Keepers, he quietly slipped away beneath the trees on the afternoon of 21st June. We take comfort in the fact that he is free of his broken body and can now embrace the great beyond with our matriarch, Daphne; our lionheart, Luggard; and all the others who left a hole in our hearts.

We would like to extend our deepest condolences to all the foster parents who played such an important role in Rama’s story. Like you, we wish more than anything that Rama could have grown into a strong bull, presiding over the Kenya wilderness for decades to come. Through sheer misfortune of the body given to him by birth, his story ended this way. However, we had the privilege of giving him 16 months surrounded by all-encompassing love. And when the time came to say goodbye, we were able to ease Rama’s suffering with dignity and peace.

These are some of our favourite photos of Rama, taken during better times. We will always remember him and treasure the time we spent with him.