Early in the morning on the 17th August the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Burra antipoaching desnaring team received information from the Kenyan Wildlife Service that a number of tour drivers had reported sightings of an abandoned elephant calf on the Voi river circuit in Tsavo East National Park. Our team along with Keepers from our Voi Unit immediately went to investigate and soon found the calf still alone, with no elephants in the area. The calf was older than expected, estimated 3 years old, but, in a place like Tsavo, incredibly vulnerable to predators. Her condition still looked good, and the fate of her family and mother until today remains a mystery. The team closely observed the calf for some hours and while waiting for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Mobile Veterinary unit (funded by Vier Photen) to arrive on the scene she unexpectedly ambled close to the road. Spontaneously, despite the Veterinary team not being on site yet, the time seemed right for the Keepers to over power her in order to transport her back to the orphan stockades and the comfort of our older orphans and of course for her to have the benefit of supplementary feeding. Orphans two and under cannot live without their mothers milk, and calves orphaned three years old and under seldom survive unless the conditions are incredibly favorable. This young female’s chances of survival seemed slim with Tsavo presently in the height of the dry season, and at the mercy of the Tsavo lions without the protection of older elephants by her side. Julius bravely led the charge towards the calf but very quickly she overpower him and had him pinned on the ground but fortunately, while bruised badly, he suffered no serious injuries, but the whole incident detracted from the rescue at hand and the calf fled into the dense undergrowth of the Voi River, and the Keepers scattered in all direction. Shortly there after the Mobile Veterinary unit arrived and continued to monitor the calf’s movements while Julius was whisked off to a nearby hospital to be sure he had not suffered any further injuries aside from the obvious bruising.
As the day progressed she came into contact with a small wild group, consisting or three adult cows and their own calves, but while they were curious about the newcomer they did not seem interested in embracing her in their family unit and she remained peripheral, but close enough to the group to make another rescue attempt on that day impossible.
Early on the 18th our team and Veterinary Unit continued to search the Voi river circuit for her whereabouts. They came across a number of elephant herds but the calf was nowhere to be seen. Our orphans and their Keepers in the meantime had climbed high up the slopes of Masinga hill to feed, and it was from that vantage point, at about 3.30pm in the afternoon, that our Keepers spotted the small calf three kilometers away on the plains below, now completely alone. They immediately alerted the Mobile Veterinary Unit of the calf’s whereabouts and decided to lead our orphans group, who had been joined this day by Natumi and Edie to the abandoned calf. The orphans immediately surrounded her, gave her reassurance and comfort, and it was not long before she was totally integrated into the midst of the orphan herd. It was soon time for them to begin their long walk back to their night stockades and ‘Msinga’ named after the hill from whose vantage point she was spotted, followed closely. She followed them all the way back to the stockades, a distance of over 8 kilometers. However once there, despite much coaxing from the older orphans, she was not confident enough to follow them into their night stockades.
Dr. Ndeereh then tranquilized the calf in order for her to be manhandled into the safety of the stockades for the night. Despite the strange surroundings she settled in fast with the others close for comfort.
In the following days she remained in the confines of the stockades with the reassuring presence of a different orphan each day staying back with her for comfort until she tamed down and became comfortable with the Keepers presence. Having settled down, amidst great excitement, she was able to join the other orphans on their daily outing in the bush and seemed truly happy to have a family unit to call her own again. The other orphans single her out for preferential treatment as little Msinga, the youngest member of the Voi Unit now, is very precious to them all.