It has been a very busy time at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust with yet another rescue, this time from the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy in Northern Kenya. The Conservation Trust is a successful community conservation program run by the proud Samburu tribes people, a group of semi-nomadic pastoralists who shown tolerance for the wildlife that co-exists alongside their livestock. Namunyak is situated in the picturesque area wrapped around the spectacular Mathews Range, the southern end of a chain of mountains that run in a north-south direction and across the savannah plains of the Samburu District.
On the morning of the 7th of September a tiny elephant calf was discovered fallen down a well dug in the steep Ngongu lugga, situated 4 kms from Sarara Camp. Samburu herdsmen happened upon the tiny calf when they came to Nkungu wells to water their livestock. Obviously the elephant herd had tried to extract their baby, but due to the nature of the well, edged with rugged rocks coupled with steep sides, this had proved impossible. How long the calf was trapped there is not known, we suspect all night, as that morning there was no evidence of any elephant herds. The area serves as a critical wildlife refuge particularly for elephants as they move seasonally between the Mathews Range and Mt. Kenya and the Ngare Ndare Forests.
A runner was immediately sent to alert the Namunyak wildlife scouts, who were able to extract the baby from the Well and alert Richard Moller from Lewa Conservancy over the radio. He in turn called The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and a rescue was mobilized. It became evident that he calf was battered and bruised from his ordeal, with a swollen chin and sprained back legs, coupled with this he was absolutely exhausted. He is tiny, and very young, with his umbilical cord just visible, we suspect he is no older than two weeks.
The rescue team and aircraft landed on Namunyak's Ndondo airstrip at 2.00pm. The calf was driven to the airstrip in the back of a land cruiser, accompanied by the men who had help rescue him. They handed over their tiny charge to the Keepers, who immediately attempted to feed him milk and rehydration fluid. His little legs were shaking, his heart beating rapidly and his temperature high, indicating extreme stress and fatigue. This coupled with his very sore chin inhibited him lifting his head to feed and not much fluid was taken as a result. They then injected the broad spectrum antibiotic, placed him on the stretcher mattress and loaded him into the Cessna caravan ready for take off.
The Namunyak community waved goodbye from the edge of the dusty bush airstrip wishing the very best for his future. One can't help to think about his mother out there somewhere in the vastness of that area, distraught at having lost her precious new born baby, and having to make that decision for the sake of the safety of the herd to walk away from what they must have considered a hopeless situation.
While Namunyak (which means the place of peace) is an area of approximately 75000 hectares where elephants are protected, there is still poaching in the surrounding areas, and this is on the increase due to the recent CITIES decision to sell the Southern African states ivory stockpiles to China. Reverberations of this decision can be felt throughout Kenya with elephant poaching figures escalating country wide.
We have called our tiny new comer Kungu (after the wells where he was rescued, Nkungu means the eye of the river in Samburu.) his wounds have been treated with anti inflammatory injections, B12 to stimulate his appetite and arnica for the bruising with mineral mud pasted under his chin to help the healing process, and keep the insects away. He is making steady progress, and he and little Suguta are already forming a special bond, two tiny babies, both from Northern Kenya's elephant populations. The lucky ones, as more often than not orphaned elephant calves are not found in time. They are now facing a future with human men replacing their mothers, and theirs will be a friendship that will span a life time, and they will again, God willing, be given the chance to live a wild life amongst the elephant herds of Tsavo National Park, thanks to the communities that saved their lives.