There is a place, near the Tanzanian border, where the Maasai tribesmen have dug a shallow well to water their herds. It is known as “Narripi” which in the Maa dialect means “Male Guide” In the early morning of 29th August 2005, when a Maasai Warrior who is, indeed, a male guide, happened to be passing, and spotted a tiny elephant calf trapped deep inside the hole. The ground around the hole was well and truly churned up, indicative of the herds’ desperate attempts to haul the baby out, but in the end, fearful of humans, they had to leave, abandoning all hope of being able to save this very precious new member of the family, who was just 3 weeks old. It was evident too that the hyenas had also found the trapped baby, and bit off the end of his trunk, as it waved helplessly in the air searching for help and his mother.
The Warrior then walked to the Amboseli Park Headquarters, where he reported the fact to both the Amboseli research unit and also to the Kenya Wildlife Service Amboseli Park authorities. The calf was extracted from the hole and then left in the area under observation in the hope that his family would return. By nightfall he was taken back to the safety of the National Park headquaters, but it was too dark for the rescue aircraft to leave Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, so the Warden, who had phoned us, was advised how to proceed for the night and to let us know first thing in the morning if the calf was still alive. He said that the baby was very weak and exhausted so we told him to put a blanket over it to keep it warm, to have someone in physical contact with it throughout the night and to feed it water, but no milk, and as much water or rehydration fluid that it would take. On his own initiative, he also had a small charcoal brazier burning nearby to heat the room, which was very thoughtful, for the cold season is still upon us and the snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro are not far off.
Sure enough, at first light the phone call came telling us that the calf had survived the night, that it had taken water and was a good deal stronger. He asked that it be named “Narripi” so that it would grow up to indeed become, a “Male Guide” amongst its peers.
The rescue plane set off immediately, and by 9.30 a.m. on the 30th August, little “Narripi” arrived at the elephant Nursery, having been fed a bottle of weak milk mixture by our Keepers before leaving Amboseli. Upon arrival, he was given all the homeopathic pillules for his injuries and his trauma, and soon afterwards, the Vet arrived to administer the injectible antibiotic which hopefully will stave off both pneumonia and septicaemia.
Although in good body shape, this poor little baby’s trunk is in a mess, the entire tip missing with deep bites further up as well so the pain of this wound will be intense and inhibit feeding, since a newborn elephant’s trunk has to feel comfortable against the body of the mother before it will suckle – in our case, a hung blanket, or the Keepers cheek or elbow. It will obviously be too tender to be able to do this. Being a mud victim, he will be at risk from the dreaded pneumonia and, of course, having eaten copious quantities of mud and dirty water, we can expect a battle with his tummy as well. However, he is too young to feel fear, or to grieve deeply for his lost elephant family, since the hind side of his ears is still as soft as a petal, and the delicate pink of a newborn. His eyes have needed attention as well, being caked in mud, and possibly later dead tissue will have to be cut away under local anaesthesia. All this presents us with the usual tough emotional challenge, but we will do our utmost to save the life of this little bull “guide” named “Narripi”, who owes his life to the compassion of a Maasai Warrior, who, instead of walking away, walked 10 miles on foot to alert the Amboseli authorities of his presence.