On the 7th February 2006, the Nairobi Nursery received an l8 month old orphaned baby bull, again from Amboseli, whose mother was found dead having suffered from an illness, presumably drought related. This bull calf is known to have been without his mother for at least 3 weeks, ever since his mother from the OB Study Group was found dead. He spent the first week after his mother’s death still within the OB herd, but when the Amboseli Research unit found the calf again two weeks later he had joined up with the AA family. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was immediately called and a plane with the David Sheldrick rescue team was despatched immediately. When the team arrived in Amboseli the calf along with the AA herd moved into the swamps and there they stayed. Our team waited on the swamp edge but with the last rays of sunlight the plane and team had to return to Nairobi without the calf. Another week passed before he was again spotted, this time entirely alone, and quite obviously suffering the affects of milk deprivation since no calf orphaned under the age of 2 years can survive without milk, even though at that age they are already ingesting some green vegetation.
The name “Orok” was given him by Cynthia Moss of the Elephant Research Unit. It is the Masai word for “Black”, because his family, the OB Study Group of Amboseli elephants, is often seen in amongst the palm groves of Ol Tukai, where the black trunks of the palms are so distinctive and since another elephant baby named “Ol Tukai” had already died in our care, rescued too late to save. The birth place of little Orok is traditional Masai country, nestling on the Kenyan side of the Kenyan/Tanzanian border and dominated by towering Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. The swamps that nourish Amboseli are fed and replenished from the melting snows of this great mountain, and they are now receding, as is Kilimanjaro’s snow, presumably due to the affects of global warming. Every year, this dome shaped mountain that resembles a traditional Christmas Pudding, is losing the cream off the top, and it is doubtful therefore that in the future Amboseli if this trend continues if it will be able to sustain its rich biodiversity of life it harbours presently, should the swamps dry.
Little Orok had a very traumatic rescue, for he still had strength, and resisted capture by the over exuberant KWS Rangers with all his might, who only managed to subdue him after a long car chase which has been indelibly etched in his mind ever since. Hence, on arrival in Nairobi, he simply wanted to kill everything on two legs, although he very quickly recognised that the white bottle that was offered to him throughout that first night smelt very tempting, and having seen Kora down his share next door, possibly held what he needed most, and that was milk! By the next morning, as soon as he saw it, he would rush up, grab it roughly, down the contents with gusto, and then retreat back into his corner in defensive mode, prepared to flatten anyone who ventured close. Most of all, he hated the blanket that had to be thrown over his head in order that he could receive the prophylactic course of injectable broad spectrum antibiotic, and even now, after almost three weeks, he refuses to have a blanket anywhere near him, tearing it off his back with his trunk, and kneeling on it to pummel it into the ground, as though avenging his fury on it! He is so happy to be out with the other 8 Nursery inmates, having formed a very close bond of friendship with another relative Newcomer, little Sidai. The two, who are still grieving for their lost elephant families, like to spend quiet time together away from the exuberance of the others, and at night, in their adjoining Stockades, draw comfort from the proximity of each other. In Sidai, angry little Orok has found a quiet, calming and serene elephant, who is still too weak to show aggression, and having been at death’s door twice, is grateful for her life.