It always seems to happen on a Sunday, but never before have we had to cope with 2 orphaned elephant rescues on a quiet Sunday afternoon, which suddenly turned out to be anything but a quiet afternoon! Since the failure of the November/December rains over most of the country, exacerbated by hotter than usual conditions, most of Kenya has been gripped by devastating drought conditions, its normally green pasture (at this time of the year) reduced to a desiccated and baked landscape. The drier than usual conditions have taken a terrible toll of all life, and not least the elephants, particularly those who have to eke out an existence in a naturally arid environment which yielded the latest two orphaned elephants to be brought into our Nairobi Nursery.
Recently, we have been receiving orphaned rescue alerts on an almost daily basis – one in the Masai Mara made by a visitor on a mobile phone via our UK Office, where the orphan turned out to be probably 3 years old, and therefore stood a better chance being left in situ rather than undergoing the trauma of a rescue in a weakened condition; On the 15th January - that quiet afternoon mentioned above - two calls, and from opposite ends of the country – one from Tsavo West National Park where a baby elephant had been spotted, wandering all alone, in an emaciated and dehydrated condition, between Ziwani near the Tanzanian border, and Kitani in Tsavo West National Park and the other from Richard Moller Northern Kenya in Samburu tribal country, where an orphan had been spotted by tribesmen near a swamp called Loijuk.
The first to arrive in the Nairobi Nursery was the 7 – 8 month male calf from Ziwani, already named by the Rescuers as “Nkiito”, the Masai word for the quartz pebbles and stones which are profuse in this mineral rich area, and so abundant that they line every road. Little Nkiito was far too weak to put up much of a struggle, resigned to his fate, and quiet on arrival (too much so for comfort). Obviously grieving deeply for his lost elephant family, and severely dehydrated, he seemed relieved and happy to find himself in more comfortable surroundings where he was offered milk and rehydration fluid. Very rapidly he went downhill and sadly died two days later.
About half an hour later a 6 – 7 month old female baby arrived from a new conservancy established on the North bank of the Ewaso Niro River called the West Gate Conservation area. She was found abandoned close to a place called Loijuk, the name of an extensive wetland swamp. The tribesmen of this area are changing from being simply pastoral herdsmen of cattle, to caretakers of the natural environment, and they were delighted to welcome Robert Carr-Hartley, who arrived in the Rescue Plane, since most of them know Robert as a friend from his Safari Company operating in the area. It was very encouraging for him to learn how proud they were of their wildlife, including the little orphan they had just rescued and brought to the airfield, whom they had already named “Loijuk” after the beautiful seasonal swamp, currently parched and dry. She was found too all alone, in a weakened state, and so obviously an orphan, her mother probably having succumbed to the drought conditions. She had been cared for tenderly by the conservation area’s rangers immediately after the rescue, and then later made the 3 hour journey in the back of a land rover to the Samburu South Airstrip, the closest strip that could accommodate a Cessna Caravan aircraft.
Once back at the nursery things did not look promising at all, however the positive was that despite being desperately weak and emaciated she did take her milk. The next day was touch and go as her temperature plummeted, and her trunk became damp with liquid coming from her lungs, both behind her ears, and her trunk icy cold. We brought the other orphans to her, and immediately they tenderly wrapped their trunks around her, all of them terribly concerned about the little newcomer. This seemed to be all she required and her eyes immediately brightened and she began the fight to live. We are hopeful that this beautiful gentle little girl has surmounted enormous odds and will be counted amongst our successes, but it is still early days.