Remembering Pesi and Sala

Death of Pesi The 13th November, 2009 was another extremely sad day in our Nairobi Infant Elephant Nursery, for precious little Pesi died very unexpectedly

Death of Pesi

The 13th November, 2009 was another extremely sad day in our Nairobi Infant Elephant Nursery, for precious little Pesi died very unexpectedly.   He was rescued as a newborn 2 day old found stuck in the Pesi Swamp near the town of Rumuruti at the foothills of the Aberdare range on the l8th August, and so had been with us for the past 4 months. 

For several months, although his stools had appeared of a normal consistency, occasional specs of fresh blood appeared, so he was given the antibiotic course, plus Zantac, which is recommended for ulceration in very young human children.   This seemed to rectify whatever was causing the spots of blood in his digestive tract, which the Vets thought might be simply a small hemorrhoid caused by stress, so we thought we were winning  - that is, until 2 days ago, when he suddenly lost all strength and had to be put on intravenous life support.   During the night of the 12th  unusually he refused his midnight milk feed, and was dead an hour later in the early morning hours of Friday 13th  of November!

Rearing the tiny orphaned elephants has always been a very difficult undertaking, and an emotional roller-coaster for all, but never more so than during this extreme drought year of 2009, when we have lost so many and seem to have lost the magic touch we thought we had acquired.   We are at a loss to fully understand why so many of the newborn rescued orphans this year have been more fragile than usual, and have died so suddenly, with very little warning other than signs of the usual killer – pneumonia.   We may possibly never fully understand why and have to simply surmise that possibly their elephant mother’s milk was lacking some vital nutrient during a period of such extreme hardship and that they were born weaker than normal.   Perhaps they suffer from an ailment transmitted by the hordes of domestic livestock who have shared their range and contaminated the watering places where adult elephants have to gather in order to survive.   A post-mortem examination of the body of little Pesi revealed little.  All his major organs and gut seemed fine. 

As always every death is an emotional trauma for us and the Keepers who have worked so hard to save each and every elephant baby, but it is more so when a baby has been with us for 4 months, as has Pesi.   Our grief will be shared by his many loving foster-parents who through generous donations also so wanted him to grow into a magnificent bull  and take his rightful place back amongst his kind.   Pesi was such an engaging character with a distinct personality of his very own.   He captured the heart of everyone who met him, and was a Nursery favourite both amongst the Keepers and the other miniature elephants.   His loss is deeply mourned.

It is not often one sees the Keepers all in tears, but this day was such an occasion.   And not just the Keepers, either, but all of the staff.   We all desperately hoped that we would be able to offer him another chance of a long and happy natural elephant life when grown.   But it was not to be.

Death of Sala

30th November, 2009 - yet another tearful day in our Nairobi Nursery,  which saw the death of our tiniest and most fragile Nursery baby – the little elephant named Sala, who just strolled into a tented camp outside the Sala entrance to Tsavo East National Park.   She had put up such a brave fight for survival, but the odds were never in her favour, having been fed cows’ milk well-meaningly by the Staff of the Camp.

This terrible drought year of 2009 has resulted in the death of many of our infant elephants, the cause of the demise of several having baffled the Vets who have undertaken autopsies.   These have revealed nothing untoward with all the vital body organs, yet those that have died have all had some common precursor symptoms  - a back foot that appears to turn upwards, inhibiting normal movement, but which does not appear to cause pain, then small  spots of blood in a stool that appears of normal consistency, but in which the colour has changed from the usual yellow of a milk fed calf to brown or black, followed by a very sudden weakness that rapidly drains their strength, and then death.   Oral and injectible antibiotics have not helped, nor have extra supplements such as Selenium etc. and everything we and the Vets could possibly think off!

The feeding of cows’ milk meant that Sala had a bad start.   Inevitably this brought on serious diarrheoa which in an emaciated candidate, is life-threatening in itself.   However, although it was touch and go for several days, we managed to pull her through.   She appeared to rally, and for several weeks was feeding well, although she failed to gain condition, but nevertheless we were hopeful that she would live once her first molars were through.   (The eruption of the first molars always seems to cause problems such as fever, loose stools etc.)  Then came the dreaded foot symptom we had noticed in others that had died, spots of blood in the stool, but just for one day, and suddenly the loss of strength, and death.   She passed away in the early hours of 30th November, a very sad ending to yet another tiny sad life in the Nairobi Elephant Nursery.