Published on the 19th of March, 2018
In the fading light of the 13th February 2018, a rescue unfolded on the Amboseli plains after a Security Team patrolling Amboseli National Park came across a baby elephant which had plunged into a water hole. How long the calf had been trapped, we can’t be sure, but the calf’s trumpets for help attracted the patrol team who went closer and found the calf submerged. They went to extract the calf by hand, however as they did so his worried mother emerged from a nearby bush and charged the team, chasing them away before she returned to keep watch over her calf at the water hole.
With the mother unable to extract her calf by herself and the Security Team unable to rescue the calf themselves, they reported the calf’s plight to the DSWT/KWS Amboseli Vet Unit who were undertaking an elephant collaring exercise in the region. Aware that they had less than an hour and a half of daylight remaining and more than 100km to cover in order to reach the calf from their current location, the Unit quickly set off to help.
Travelling along rough and bumpy roads, the Amboseli Vet Unit, headed by KWS Vet Dr Ephantus, met the Security Team, who had remained in the area watching over the calf, at 6:45pm. The mother was nowhere to be seen but the Vet Unit presumed she had not gone far and set about hauling her calf, who was floating in the water hole, to safety with the help of five men while two more remained on watch.
Soon, the little calf was back on dry land and, despite his exhausting ordeal, he was able to stand by himself on his own four feet, even walking about and depicting a suckling reflex - a positive sign that he still had plenty of energy left.
As daylight faded fast, the next move was to try and locate his mother within the vicinity as quickly as possible. Placing the calf in the back of an open pick up, the Security Team and Vet Unit drove in different directions as they scoured the land for her. All the while, the little calf joined in with the search as he trumpeted away, calling out for his mother.
Thankfully, she was spotted less than a kilometre away with her trunk raised above the shrubs, trying to pick up the scent of her calf. She soon began moving at pace towards the vehicle at which point, the team stopped at a safe distance and offloaded their precious cargo, who let out another loud trumpet. At the sound, the mother charged at her calf’s rescuers – perhaps not understanding they were there to help – chasing the team for nearly fifty metres before going back to her calf. After a quick inspection of him, the Unit watched the two joyfully reunite and the calf take a much needed suckle of milk – the best possible happy ending.
Reunions like this are the best kind of stories and, over the years, the DSWT Field teams have been in a position to attend to numerous such cases, successfully reuniting separated calves with their desperate mother and families. While it is not always the case that this is possible, it is always cause for great joy when things work out as they should and, on this day, thankfully the mother boldly returned just when she thought all hope was lost.
Our thanks to the KWS and all those involved in this reunion, as well as those who have donated towards the work of the DSWT/KWS Vet Units. If you would like to make a contribution to these lifesaving Units, who work tirelessly to help all wild animals in need, however big or small, please click here: www.thedswt.org/donate