Published on the 12th of March, 2016
One of the DSWT aircraft flying over Tsavo first sighted the injured calf with her mother and herd and reported the case to the DSWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit funded by Vier Pfoten and headed by Dr. Jeremiah Poghon. At the time the Unit was busy attending to a lion case in Tsavo West, so the treatment was postponed until the following day. In the meantime her movements were monitored and it was noted that her mother and herd would abandon her for long periods of time in order to move further afield to browse. The calf was located by our aerial unit again on the 9th of March when the ground teams were able to move in to administer treatment. As she was on her own, she was easily approached and darted in order to be treated A serious injury to her right hind knee had rendered her virtually immobile and it was difficult to ascertain whether the injury was caused by a poisoned arrow, a bullet or possibly a spear, but no foreign object was found whilst cleaning the wounds. Following treatment our plane monitored her progress, but it was clear that her family had chosen to abandon her for the betterment of the whole herd and were not returning since they had left the area completely. Due to the severe nature of her injury which would require ongoing attention in order to heal and in view of how very vulnerable she was to predation, an ambitious decision was made to attempt to rescue her. Given her size this was, indeed, a challenge especially as she had been treated a few days previously so the revival drug was likely to still be in her system. This ruled out the option of administering a second anaesthetic in order to capture her.
On the 10th of March she was again located and Dr. Poghon from the DSWT/KWS Mobile Veterinary Unit was on site early. This time she was darted with a sedative, and once the drug had taken affect, the team of Keepers and anti poaching rangers moved in, first throwing a blanket over her head, and then restraining her. Under the circumstances this proved surprisingly easy and she was able to be carefully laid on a tarpaulin stretcher with her legs tied, after which the sheer manpower of 15 men heaved her onto the back of the canter lorry. The journey back to the Voi stockades from the capture site took approximately 45 minutes, and once safely at the Voi stockades, she was off- loaded and placed still recumbent in the Taming Stockade so that her wound could be attended to for a second time, with doses of antibiotic, and anti inflammatory drugs administered. She was then untied and was able to rise to her feet unaided. Still mellow from the affects of the sedation drug, she immediately began to feed on cut green browse and the lucerne that had been placed in her stockade, and appeared remarkably calm. It was a relief for the entire DSWT team to see her safe and with elephant company once more, the presence of the dependent orphans having a calming effect to settle her further. The nature of her injury remains of great concern, however, but it is our hope that given time it will heal with ongoing medical attention. Another follow- up operation is planned in ten days time, with the Xray machine at hand to take a closer look and be able to ascertain the extent of the injury and whether an arrowhead or bullet remains imbedded, as well as to monitor whether the bone has been compromised. We have named our new arrival Yatima, which means Orphan in Swahili, and in the meantime she is comfortable and feeding extremely well.
UPDATE: Unfortunately despite battling hard Yatima succumbed to his terrible wound, we believe most probably caused from a bullet, and died in the early hours of the 19th of March.
The following day another orphaned calf was sighted from the air by the DSWT aircraft during an early morning patrol along the Voi River circuit, this time a bull calf of between 2 -3 years old who was in poor condition indicative of the fact that he had been alone for a significant amount of time. The Keepers decided to herd the orphans down close to the airstrip and then attempt to guide him with two vehicles in the hope that he might join the orphans and in that way be retrieved. They surrounded him and he mingled with the orphans, leaving everyone hoping that he would accompany them back to the Stockades later on in the day. Initially he appeared comfortable amidst our dependent herd, but despite keeping their distance, the presence of the Keepers unnerved him and he moved away. The orphans then headed to their midday mudwallow and milk feed venue so KWS made the decision to mount a rescue and bring the calf to safety. Our ground teams travelled to where he was, which was now 2 kilometres from where he had previously been seen. He was then captured by the DSWT team, and once his legs had been tied, was loaded into the back of a Landcruiser and driven the short distance back to the Voi stockades where he was placed in the Taming Stockade next door to Yatima the calf who was rescued the previous day. Our Voi Keepers have named the new arrival Mtonni (river in Swahili) after the location where he was rescued, and despite being very wild and aggressive initially, he has settled fast, happy with the presence of Yatima right next door to him.
UPDATE : On 13th of March, just a couple days after he was rescued Mtonni collapsed in the early evening. Our Voi team managed to revive him with IV drips and he was able to get back to his feet. Very sadly he collapsed a second time after midnight, and despite our best efforts the team were not able to retrieve him from a hypoglycemic coma, and he died in the early hours of the morning.