Nalitu, another tiny orphan

The Uaso Nyiro River (the Masai name for “Red River”) has as its sources tributaries that rise in the forests of both the Aberdare mountain range and Mount Kenya

The Uaso Nyiro River (the Masai name for “Red River”) has as its sources tributaries that rise in the forests of both the Aberdare mountain range and Mount Kenya. This river is the very lifeblood of the arid lowlands of Northern Kenya, flowing swiftly through both tribal lands and privately owned Ranchlands during periods of rain, lazily in a series of large pools in the dry seasons, and spilling into the great Lorian Swamp in the far North to end its long journey. Occasionally during periods of drought, the river ceases to flow entirely, and then the elephants dig in its sands to expose sub-surface supplies for all life. One of the boundaries of the 60 acre Loisaba Ranch with the Samburu community land on the opposite bank is this Uaso Nyiro river.

In the evening of 11th November 2004, a herd of elephants felt compelled to cross from the Loisaba side of the river over to the community side, following an ancient migratory pattern undertaken by the Laikipia elephants over millennia. It so happened that the river was in high spate at the time, heavy rainstorms having fallen upstream, and it also, very fortunately, so happened that there were human witnesses to the event that was about to unfold watching from both banks of the river.

As the elephants took to the raging waters, a tiny 3 week old calf was swept from the herd and taken away by the churning floodwaters, as the distraught elephant family watched helplessly, trumpeting their distress. By the time they reached the opposite bank they were extremely agitated, milling around with outstretched ears and tails, but finally, desperate to reach their intended destination, they fled. This probably entailed having to “streak” long distances under cover of darkness through densely populated tribal lands which, of course, is a very dangerous undertaking that forced the Matriarch to accept that the baby had to be left to its fate in the interest of all the others. Luckily, however, the onlookers, saw that the calf had fetched up wedged in a rocky gorge with the churning red floodwaters flowing swiftly over and past her as darkness set in.

It was no easy task to extract the little elephant from such a difficult place in the dark where a missed foothold could also spell tragedy for a human, but after about two hours, finally they managed. The elephant baby was taken to Loisaba Ranch Headquarters where they knew exactly what to do, having been involved in several previous elephant rescues (Loisaba, Nyiro, Olmalo, Selengai, Sunyei). Immediately, we were alerted that a plane would be needed the next day and meanwhile the little elephant was offered re-hydrants and wrapped snugly in blankets to keep her warm throughout the long night, comforted by an attendant who remained close, since the trauma of leaving an infant alone, who would never naturally ever be alone, is so severe that it can make the difference between living and dying.

The morning of 12th dawned, and the rescue plane was on its way by 8.30 a.m. entailing a flight of one and a half hours to the nearest airstrip on Loisaba Ranch, with Rob Carr-Hartley aboard to film the rescue for “Elephant Diaries” and all the usual rescue paraphanalia plus two of our Elephant Keepers. When the plane landed, the little elephant was waiting to be airlifted to our Elephant Nursery. But for abrasions on her chin, and in her mouth, plus the top of one ear damaged and bent from her ordeal against the rocks, she was in good physical shape. Obviously, however, she is a candidate for the dreaded pneumonia so will have to undergo a full anti-biotic course, plus a couple of long-actings. She was fed milk by our Keepers, which she took hungrily before being loaded into the plane, where immediately she lay down trustingly to sleep. Upon arrival in the Nursery, she was delighted to meet tiny l0 day old Seyia, as her sores were attended to, and her first injection given. Later on, she received a very warm welcome from all the other Nursery inmates, especially Sunyei and Naserian, who are over the moon now with three tiny tots.

We named her “Nalitu” – the Samburu name for a beautiful white lily that sprouts miraculously after heavy rain from the barren earth of semi desert lowlands, opening at dusk and turning huge patches of red earth pure white, filling the night air with a heady perfume as myriads of moths hover over the moonlit blossoms. Since this latest little elephant was rescued after the first heavy rainstorms of her Northern birthplace, and during the night, and because she is so beautiful, our Samburu Elephant Keepers selected this name. We feel it is perfectly appropriate for this, the 62nd infant elephant that the Trust has rescued since the first one named “Olmeg” was brought to us in 1986. l month old Jipe, 3 week old Nalitu and l week old Seyia now make an enchanting miniature trio among the other six slightly older Nursery inmates.